Breaking the Stigma Surrounding our Veterans - Lest We Forget


BY LUKE FOSTER

Do you perceive Veterans as?

  • All suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)?
  • Gun-slinging dudes covered in tattoos who are overly aggressive, unpredictable, violent?
  • Not able to think for themselves?
  • NOT female?
  • Possessing skills that are great for ‘war’ but not transferrable to civilian employment?

While words such as warrior, hero, and sacrifice are thrown into the mix of descriptors used to describe our Veterans, seemingly, more often our Veterans are placed into a generic box and viewed less favourably (without intended malice I am sure) by those with limited understanding. The broad spectrum of Veteran experiences, and what Veterans have to offer as unique individuals with unique skill sets, are often overlooked.

Over the past ten days LIVIN has been able to share ten stories with you, showcasing different Veterans that live amongst us in our communities. From Aaron who went from fighting in the deserts and valleys of Afghanistan to working as a Management Consultant and commencing a MBA; to Ken who went from fighting in the jungles of Vietnam to becoming the ‘soul and conscience of AUSTAR for over 15 years’; to Ben who went from being a decorated Special Forces soldier to commencing a Bachelor of Nursing; and, Hannah – a Veteran Royal Australian Airforce Logistics Officer who is now on the path to becoming a Doctor via the completion of her PhD, to mention just a few.

Hopefully these short stories, representing brief snapshots into the lives of some of our modern-day Veterans, have been able to help dispel some of the common misconceptions that exist about Veterans and showcased the tremendous contributions that Veterans have in the community – and their potential in your organisation, whatever that organisation might be. Surely, based on these ten stories, which are only a small sample of the tens of thousands of Veteran stories out there, you will have gained a greater appreciation of how advantageous Veterans can be to so many different aspects of society.

What we found extremely interesting was the commonality amongst the Veterans we heard from around what they wished civilians better understood about Veterans more broadly. Here’s a snapshot.

Very few of the Veterans we spoke with were living with PTSD. And of those who are, it is being extremely well managed thanks to proactive help-seeking behaviour and regular appointments via a qualified mental health professional. It’s also important to note that amongst these people, there appeared to be little-to-no history of violence. Sure, broadly speaking, PTSD can lead to anger outbursts, but violence amongst people with mental health challenges is much lower than generally believed. In fact, people with mental health challenges are much more likely to be victims of violence. Some food for thought!

Our Veterans were insistent that the general public become more aware of the unique and arduous training which all military members receive in service and the incredibly complex situations they are sometimes put into, requiring them to think on their feet, maintain composure, and lead. This means Veterans often have a tremendous capacity to deal with difficult situations with a sense of calm. Can you do the same? If you’ve got a complex problem you’re trying to solve in your organisation, why not call on a Veteran?

Lastly, our Veterans were very eager for everyone to remove their blinkers and begin to understand that Veterans are a diverse bunch. Some are mothers and fathers, grand-mothers and grand-fathers, some are foot loose and fancy free. Some are male, some are female. Some are students, some have PhDs, some are builders, some are salespeople, some are doctors, lawyers, accountants, psychologists. Some are likely working alongside you right now, without you even knowing it. If you are fortunate enough to be working alongside a Veteran, what a special gift! Give them a hug, a high five, a salute…learn from them.

Another thing the stories from the past ten days have hopefully brought to the fore is that transitioning from military life to civilian life is never easy. There is the potential loss of identity; the loss of a clear mission; the realisation that you no longer have your days planned out for you; a reduced support structure; going from a steady paycheck to an uncertain future for self and family; the challenge of trying to articulate and convince civilian employers that skills learnt in the military DO translate; and, of course, battling the sometimes negative stereotypes associated with Veterans. Do you hold misconceptions about Veterans that might be keeping them out of jobs in your organisation that they could excel in?  For your next hire, at least consider a Veteran and their unique skill sets.

We at LIVIN would like to acknowledge our partner in this campaign, the Australian Student Veterans Association (ASVA), and the great work they are doing to support Veterans into their next stage of life post-separation. ASVA’s work to empower Veterans by capitalising on their service in the post-secondary arena is creating a consistent cohort of highly accomplished and inspiring stories, like those we’ve shared with you. Who knows, maybe a Student Veteran Alumni will be your next Doctor, Nurse, Lawyer, Architect, Engineer or Pilot!

Today is the 11th of the 11th, Remembrance Day. At 11 am on the 11th of November 1918 the guns on the Western Front fell silent after more than four years of warfare. Today, at 11 am please observe one minute’s silence to remember those who have died or have suffered, both physically and psychologically for Australia’s cause in all wars and armed conflicts. Take a moment to recalibrate your thoughts on what a Veteran truly is, and the value that they could potentially add to whatever it is you are involved in.

‘Lest We Forget’.

 

Written by Luke Foster

Psychologist in the Australian Regular Army from 2009-2017, attaining the rank of Major.

Deployed to East Timor, the Solomon Islands and Afghanistan.

“Serving in the Australian Army is something that I will be forever proud of and grateful for having done. Having the opportunity to speak with so many different men and women about their experiences and helping people, where I could, was a privilege. The tremendous resilience of OUR PEOPLE, those responsible for looking after this bloody great country of ours, is impressive and inspiring”.

If you are struggling and feel you need to speak up, check out our Get Help page for organisations that can help.  If you would like more information about the work of ASVA, click here to check out their website