Forbes Shire Council and members of the local CWA and RSL sub-branch were on hand to welcome the Walking Wounded team to Forbes last week. Pictured are (l-r) Maureen Miller, Ann Nelson (CWA), Brian Steffen (Forbes Shire), Brian Freeman, Steve Schultz, Forbes mayor Phyllis Miller, Malcolm Cockburn, Neil Biddle (RSL), Michael Walker (RSL), Ray Palmer, Frank Hanns (RSL) and deputy mayor Graeme Miller. 0715walkingwoundedSoldiers enjoy strong leadership while in the Australian Army, but once they complete their service some struggle to cope with what they’ve seen.
Helping these men and women return to normal life is the quest of Brian Freeman, who visited Forbes as part of the Great Australian Traverse.
Mr Freeman, founder and executive director of Walking Wounded, is leading a team of former Australian servicemen and women on the 65 day traverse, from Australia’s top end to its most southerly point.
Once at their destination the Walking Wounded crew will have covered an average distance of 65km a day, on 65 consecutive days, and all of it human powered.
Brian is completing most of the journey himself, including a planned kayak paddle across Bass Strait towards the end of the event.
Brian and his support team are carrying an Australian War Memorial cylinder containing three honour rolls, every step of the way.
The traverse through Forbes is actually phase two of a broader Tribute to the Anzacs initiative, which began with an attempt to climb to the summit of Mt Everest on Anzac Day earlier this year.
Brian was planning to reach the peak of the world’s highest mountain on the 100th anniversary of the Gallipoli landing but fate intervened, with the Nepal earthquake hitting the day before.
While the former Special Forces soldier reluctantly abandoned the climb, the resolve to complete the north to south traverse is strong.
Of particular concern to Walking Wounded is the alarming rate of suicide among Australia’s younger war veterans – those who served in Afghanistan, Iraq and Vietnam.
“The suicide rate among young veterans is out of control … we know just by word of mouth that soldiers are suiciding weekly here, if not more often,” Mr Freeman told a gathering of Forbes Shire Council, Forbes RSL sub-branch and Forbes CWA members last Tuesday.
Mr Freeman thinks part of the problem is the absence of strong leadership for ex-service personnel, once they have fulfilled their service obligations.
“Soldiers need to be shown leadership inside and outside the Army,” he said.
“These people have been fighting in kill-or-be-killed environments and once it’s over we say to them ‘now go back to your families and be good husbands and fathers’. But how do you do that? It’s not going to happen.”
Walking Wounded’s Great Australian Traverse is raising money for Brisbane’s Rising Sun Centre which aims to assist with re-training, re-education and job placement for contemporary veterans, and efforts to reduce a high suicide rate among these veterans.
In Forbes the group were presented with cheques by Forbes RSL sub-branch and Forbes CWA.
The group expected to reach Albury yesterday. If you or someone you know is experiencing depression, contact one of the following telephone help services:
* Lifeline 13 11 14
* Beyond Blue 1300 22 46 36
* SANE Australia 1800 18 72 63
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