As a 13-year old boy heading off the rails, I met a Vietnam veteran and serving solder who turned my life around.
Twenty-five years later, I have teamed up with one of these guys to put together Veterans4Youth, which offers a two-week military-style camp to help get at-risk teenagers back on track.
As a teenager myself I was off the rails – I skipped school, challenged teachers and started to get into heavier things like vandalism, stealing and breaking and entering into properties. I was never caught, but found myself mixing with the wrong crowds and was quickly sliding down the juvenile delinquency slippery slope.
I was the youngest of four kids to a single mother growing up in the low-socio economic suburbs of Western Sydney. Mum had to work a full-time job to support us kids and couldn’t keep me nailed down.
We had to get ourselves to and from school without supervision, and quite frankly, if I didn't want to go to school, I just wouldn't go. I did what I wanted and there wasn't much anyone could do about it. This caused a lot of friction at home and my mum had no one to help her, nor did she know what to do with me.
She ended up sending me on a youth development program every Friday night and the odd weekend – it was there that I met those two men who got me on the straight and narrow.
I remember very clearly the day they pulled me aside and told me what my problem was. They told me I was a smart kid with heaps of potential, but that I was wasting it on working the system and trying to get away with mischief.