For Chris Thompson-Lang, as for many veterans, Anzac Day always comes with a mix of emotions.
Today was the first in 16 years the former combat engineer was still sober at lunch time.
“Generally, I’m proud of the time that I’ve served but also reflective on the sacrifices of others – probably more poignantly, the sacrifices of soldiers in recent conflict rather than those who have gone before us, even though those are important to me,” he told The Project panel on Tuesday night.
Thompson-Lang served in the Australian Army for 14 years as a combat engineer and was deployed to Afghanistan. Like many of his peers, he turned to alcohol to alleviate the mental trauma he carried home with him.
“I think it’s important to have that understanding of history and the Anzac spirit that ties us all together,” he said.
"But for me, today I spent the Dawn Service with the father of a soldier killed in Afghanistan. And what's at the forefront of my mind is the 41 killed in the most recent conflict."
Upon returning, Thompson-Lang said he struggled to fit back in, was disturbed by nightmares and found it hard to communicate with wife and kids.
His experience is far from uncommon.
"Quite often the general public does focus on veterans that are no longer here, and they glorify them," he said.
“More could be done… to provide help.” Capt. (ret.) Chris Thompson-Lang speaks about what ANZAC Day means to him and other veterans.
Posted by The Project on Tuesday, 25 April 2017
"The reality is we've got veterans my age, younger, multiple tours, some of us are struggling. Some of us are losing that connection to our communities. We're losing our connections to each other and I think that more could be done to strengthen that and provide help."
The softly-spoken veteran, who co-founded Frontline Yoga, a service to support those traumatised by frontline roles - like emergency service workers and defence personnel - said his mental state had drastically improved in the past two years, but it was not an easy road.
"It's probably the first time in 16 years that I haven't been drunk by lunch time, it's generally a common sort of thread against some of my peers and myself over the last 16 years."