Tell us a little bit about yourself...
Born and bred in New Zealand; joined the Army straight after school. I’m passionate about anything I do and try my best to help people on a regular basis whenever I can; everything I do I give a 100 percent regardless of what it is – I’m an all or nothing kind of guy!
Tell us about your background in the military...
I enlisted in the Army in the year 2001. It was always a passion of mine since I was a kid. I remember growing up and being around the military my whole childhood. My uncle was in the NZ Special Forces, so I was always fascinated by it and it was my dream to follow in his footsteps, which I’m proud to say I did.
I got deployed to Afghanistan in 2003; this was my first deployment and I remember thinking what a nervous but exciting challenge I’m about to embark on, not knowing what was ahead…I really had no idea what to expect as I left NZ headed for Afghanistan.
Being in Afghanistan for 7 months was a massive eye opener for me and I guess the rest of my team too. Seeing the way the Afghans lived, what they had, what they DIDN’T have and what they go through made me really appreciate my own country and my own way of living back home.
Months away from family and loved ones was tough at times but as a soldier you have to keep your mind on the job, and you have your brothers with you to get you through. Going out on 30 day patrols, which we used to do every second month, away from our main base where we were situated, driving 10 kms per hour through tough terrain, 13 hours to our destination, and being a gunner on the back of the vehicle, which I was, the whole time was mentally and physically demanding, especially when you know you have to watch your arcs/ surroundings the entire time because you never knew when the time would come where you may need to pull the trigger and start firing. You had to be very alert, constantly!
During my time in Afghanistan I was confronted by the enemy on a number of occasions. Sometimes we managed to get ourselves out of tough situations and other times we were not so lucky.
Overall, the trip for myself was a once in a lifetime experience that changed me forever - both good and bad. Throughout New Zealand’s campaign over in Afghanistan, unfortunately I lost 4 friends, 3 brothers and 1 sister who I will always hold dear to my heart and never forget.
The highlight of my career was being able to connect with other people and form bonds that are like no other; knowing that you may not see your Army mates for years but when you do, you connect like it was yesterday is so special. This is something I miss a lot.
What are you up to these days?
I was lucky to transition straight out of the Army and into the mining industry with one of my other Army mates. This was good while it lasted, but now I am at home fulltime working on myself and working hard on a business I want to start.
How was your transition from the military to civilian life?
Coming back into ‘civilian life’ as we say (or, the ‘real world’) was hard; not knowing what to expect, how to react to things or how to communicate with the outside world were some of the many challenges I faced. When you leave a job where you’re on high alert constantly, where your adrenaline is pumping constantly it is hard to adapt to ‘normal’ society, a society where, for a long time, I didn’t think people were on the same level as me.
I was paranoid, always watching over my shoulder, suspicious, questioning myself and who I could and could not trust. These are things I have had to work hard on addressing over the years. With a lot of hard work and good support, I think I have managed to fit back in and adjust back into ‘normal’ life.
While I definitely had some challenges, I guess I was sort of lucky at the time of my transition as I got a job in the mines with another Army mate. It was good having him around when I transitioned – we had and continue to have each other’s backs.
We know that transition from the military to civilian life can be challenging on the mental health of so many Veterans. We know that transition in many areas of life can be challenging - primary school to high school, high school to university or the workforce, becoming a parent, loss of a close friend or family member etc. What is ONE tip you can provide to those reading this that helped with your transition from the military to civilian life from a mental health perspective?
One thing I can say, it’s never easy, transition in any area of life can be hard. But you need to find a way that works for you. Whether it’s joining a gym, being around good people who are encouraging and who love you for you, going on walks, family, any type of therapy that helps you get through whatever it may be you’re dealing with. For me, having an animal (dog) in my life who I love very much, my little buddy, is really therapeutic FOR ME.
What do you wish civilians were more aware of about Veterans and military personnel?
We should never forget what our Veterans have done, the sacrifices they have made, both past and those who are still serving, to enable us to enjoy our freedoms. We really shouldn’t take anything in life for granted.
What do you like most about LIVIN?
LIVIN is an organisation that’s so supportive and always there for its community. I also love that LIVIN is helping to crack down the stigma that surrounds mental health.
One final thing I would like to say, this is the first time I have put pen to paper (so to speak) about my time in the Army. It has been very therapeutic for me. Goes to show that “It Ain’t Weak to Speak” and that Speaking Up can be very helpful for your mental health. A big thank you to LIVIN for allowing me to be involved in this initiative.