‘What will I buy for dinner?… Oh that’s a cute dress…I wonder if it will be in fashion for long, is it worth purchasing now? Maybe I should get my hair cut this week and buy that next pay if I still like it… When I get home I’ll have to get onto that uni work before I go out tonight.’ These are a sample of the mediocre thoughts that sometimes occupy my mind whilst shopping. For 6 RAR soldier and Afghanistan veteran, Nicholas Brooke, his thought pattern differs greatly. ‘What are these people talking about? Why is that man reaching into his pocket? Is the woman with the basket moving towards me?’ He is in hyper-alert mode. He can’t deal with crowds of people, he doesn’t sleep well and sudden noises and bright lights disturb him. I can’t imagine life like this. Always looking over your shoulder, wondering who is going to shoot at you or if your next step will be your last? This is a small taste of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and the mental harm that faces many Australian soldiers on their return from war.via
There is no cure for PTSD, Brooke has to learn to live with this condition. It’s difficult for his wife, Prue, who says “I knew something was very wrong with Nick one night when some kids let off some fire crackers in the schoolyard across from our home…he just jumped up out of bed, got up against the wall, and he was screaming, ‘Take cover! Take cover!’ I tried to tell him it was alright, that we were at home, but he just looked straight through me; it was frightening to watch.” This is the sacrifice that Brooke has made, so that Australian’s can sleep safely each night.via
On 9 July 2010, Brooke witnessed his friend’s tragic death as he was struck by an undetectable IED 200 metres from Combat Outpost Mashal’s front gate in Afghanistan. Shaking and tearful, Brooke says he feels guilty for the death, guilt that he was unable to help his mate and worst of all – that he survived.via
This is one story. There are hundreds of other tragic Australian stories just like this, from current and past wars. Additionally, 39 Australian soldiers have died in Afghanistan and 252 injured with one or more of the following:
- Gun shot wounds,
- Hearing loss,
- Concussion/traumatic brain injury,
- Penetrating fragments, and
- Multiple severe injuries.
Despite this, Brooke (like many soldiers I’ve met) said “I am glad I went to Afghanistan, because I believed in what we are doing and I believe we made a difference. I felt prepared when I went, I felt confident when I went there, and no-one is more surprised than I am about how things went when I came back.”via
I want to urge you not just to see tomorrow as an opportunity to sleep in, but an opportunity to reflect on Brooke and those who were physically injured or died in past and present wars, for your safety here in Australia. Don’t make it a day to make a political stand saying ‘Australia shouldn’t be in Afghanistan, it’s not our war and we aren’t making any progress there anyway’…Would you say that to Brooke? Would you tell him or his wife that the sacrifice he or his friend made was for nothing?
I’m thankful for our defence forces, past and present who train, fight and persevere for the sake of this great nation.
The story of Nicholas Brooke (the source for this post) can be found in Frances Whitling's Article 'Damage Control'