A Diggers viewpoint of being at the sharp end. Gained while serving with 3 Platoon - 'A' Company -7 Battlion (Infantry) Royal Australian Regiment, as a Rifleman in Australia's longest ever war - fought in South Vietnam.  

Chapter 5 - Page 24 - Updated January 2008 - Next Page:- PTSD 25/35

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 [end of tour 22] [my army service 23] [my case 24] [PTSD 25]




 See below for the following stories:-

  • new21.gifPAGE & new Material 
  • Photo and Infomation
  • Community Involvement
  • Old Digger Mates
  • My Army Service After The War
  • My Story
  • PTSD and the Missing Years
  • Veteran Entitlement Act
  • The End of the Battle Arrives
  • Faking PTSD?
  • Australian Vietnam Veterans
  • The photo is of me my brother Steve (left) my Dad (right) just behind my head. There is an interesting little postscript to this photo and event which I will explain. © "Tony (oink) Blake".


The photo was taken the day I was leaving Wollongong Railway Station to travel to Sydney the day I joined the Army as a Nashional Serviceman. Of course the fools from SOS turned up at the station to make a fuss and I waited on the train waiting for it to leave. When I realised that the train was not leaving I got off the train to have a look at why? There were a stack of people sitting on the train tracks?

They were holding up signs against the war. I walked slowly up to them and asked them to leave as it was painful as it was leaving they were just making it worse? They made a few remarks but made little move to leave. As one of them waved his sign around close to me I grabbed it and started to rip it up. I was surprised to hear a ripple of applause and looked up to see a large crowd on the


These days I have been a member of the Vietnam Veteran Federation, since its early days. Also I am involved in the Vietnam War Memorial the CHERRY TREE WALK being built at Bowral NSW. I was appointed to the original Garden Committtee that worked on the idea in 1996 as I was drawn to the concept of the Memorial.

The Memorial will provide a WALK flanked by Cherry Trees. The number orginally planned for the site was over 500. These were to represent those Australians killed in Vietnam. However due to sustained attacks by some greenie terrorists who's actions led to a large number of Cherry Trees beening ripped out of the ground, the Committee's ability to replace the Trees has been effected. Also despite the so-called support by the local Council, it has worked in secret, behind the scenes to prevent the project being completed as planned and agreed to by the Council of the Day in 1996.

There is a magnificent MONUMENT at the site of the Memorial, for further information please visit the CHERRY TREE WALK site;



Old Digger Mates

I am lucky enough to be able to talk to a few members of my old Platoon, Three Platoon Alfa Company 7RAR, by phone or email, who talk to others, so more than a few of us keep in touch. Diggers like Steve at Harvey Bay in Qld, who when I am visiting or passing thorough, he and his wife always have me stay over to share a few beers. Arthur who was Wounded when our Platoon Commander was killed. Bob who has been down to my home town for ANZAC Day.

The Plt Commander I talk about in the "Mine incident" story who looked after me in the days and weeks after 'that day' Mr Wilson also is in touch. I was suprised and extremely pleased that he contacted me via e-mail after reading the story. I rang him up straight away and soon the years had fallen away talking about people we knew and events still fresh in the mind. Thankfully I have been able to chat about those days and he has filled in a few blanks about what the platoon did in the months before we went home. It helps to know and talk to all of these men who went through the worst of times together and still there helping one another; 30 years later.

With the net I am lucky enough to talk to some mates, mostly Vietnam Vets who kept me on the straight and narrow when fighting my case. It goes with out saying that they form part of my support structure today as I don't get out much.    


My Army Service After The War

After getting home from Vietnam I stayed with 7 Battalion until July 1971. For the next stage of my military career I transferred to the Royal Australian Army Medical Corps. I under took Corps Training at the main training center for the Medical cops at Healesville in Victoria. After that I was posted to 2 Military Hospital this time at Ingleburn NSW. After training and gaining the qualification of "Medical Assistant" I was posted to the hospital and soon started work on seven day shift work, as the hospital ran 24 hours a day.

In 1975 I was a Corporal Medical Assistant at 101 Field Work Shops. The unit was a Field Force unit, in support of the Brigade at Holsworthy. It was an 'Royal Australian Electrical & Mechanical Engineers' or RAEME unit and I was its 'Medic'. We lived at Mittagong by then, and I did the trip to Ingleburn and back every day at a high speed. It was about this time in late 1975 early 1976 that I noticed a change in my behaviour, manly while driving and became one of the first 'road rage drivers'. At this time I did not connect my behaviour and thoughts to anything to do with Vietnam, while struggling to carry on my duties for the unit.


Finally after many months I went to a doctor for help, one that I trusted at the hospital. He made an appointment for me to see a Psychiatrist. The Psychiatrist recommended that I move from Field Force as he thought this was part of the problem. I was still "switched on" like Vietnam, even carrying a weapon. So in early 1977 I was posted out of field force down the road to 2 Base Workshop Battalion at Moorebank. However the move did not work and after much discussion with Helen looked for a job in the local area.

I left the Army on Monday afternoon and started a shift work job at a local brickworks on Tuesday afternoon, as a Kiln Burner. Not bad, in 24 hours from serving as a Soldier to someone making bricks? During the early 1980s I went to the Department of Veterans Affairs (DVA) for a check up. This resulted in them agreeing that my situation was a condition from my Vietnam experience and started payment of a small pension. While I knew nothing of PTSD in those days, if you read my medical file, which I got through the "Freedom of Information Act" some years ago, my PTSD was evident as far back as 1976 and again in 1981.

 During the 1980's I was showing signs of my condition to work mates and family, I thought I was fine and "normal", throwing my self into work, with committee after committee and study at TAFE from 1991 to 1997 and my hobbies of soccer refereeing & administration, photography, reading etc. Those that deal with PTSD say that all this frantic activity is called "avoidance".


My condition was to lead to me being forced out of my job and another break down in 1997. This occurred when due to a massive cash injection the plant I was working at and gave 12 years of dedicated hard work to, downsized and I was downsized out of the gate. At the time I was very bitter after all my work via the AWU and plant committees (with other Union delegates of course) that enabled the plant to archive this plan. It was a very difficult year and I was finding it difficult to hang on and function day to day. When I saw the doctor the company sent me to for an exit medical things begin to change.

It was clear to me he had served in the Australian Defence Forces and I told him about how my life had been for some time. He thought my problems were related to my war service and told me to go and see the Vietnam Veterans. I did this and was sent to see a Psychiatrist. Going for help was difficult and talking about what was going on, but I was then diagnosed with PTSD and finally had an answer to why I was thinking and doing certain things.

Then I had to jump thorough the DVA hoops having put an application in to have an upgrade in my disability rating. Having my own doctors helped. I saw others employed by the DVA to check you out. In total I saw more than 9 doctors during my fight for recognition that my condition was "war caused". Including a number of "tours" in St John of God; a hospital at Richmond. These 'tours' were important in many ways, like helping a Veteran to trust some people again, people that were not Veterans but who wanted to help. There is so much that I owe St John of God Staff. It is difficult to put in to words, without them and others like them I am positive that there would be so many more Vietnam Veterans committing suicide.

Eventually a Psychiatrist that the DVA sent me to, agreed I had PTSD and was too ill to work, due to my "war caused disabilities". A report that the DVA finally listened too and granted me TPI status in 1999. Those few sentences took all of the years 1998 and 1999. During the missing years of 1998 and 1999 I have no idea how I survived. Or how I made it through those many months. My condition made all the worse by trying to deal with the thoughts of Vietnam on a day and night basis while dealing with unfeeling and unknowing clerical people from DVA.

People who have no idea what it is like to put your life on the line every day for your country. People perhaps who's idea of stress was that the air conditioning was not working? People who absolutely have no idea what a Digger in Vietnam went through. Or even having any empathy for the Veteran's present day health and condition and their way of life. At times filled with thoughts of ending it all. It is my belief that the department charged to helping the Veterans and the ex service people; are their greatest adversary.

Veteran Entitlement Act

To give those who do not know about the Repatriation system in Australia some background to its formation, I quote Prime Minister Billy Hughes from the time of World War One. "You go and fight", he said "and when you come back we will look after your welfare". He added, "We have entered into a bargain with the soldiers and we (the Australian people) must keep it". This contract unique anywhere in the world, these days is formalised by an ACT called the Veteran Entitlement Act. However these days the DVA staffed by people who have never served their country in any capacity. Who work very hard to prevent ill and disabled Veterans getting their entitlements. Even to the extent of trying to change the law to favor the DVA against the Veteran.

Is this the Australian Way?

Only for organisation such as the Vietnam Veterans Federation and Association bodies, the DVA would get away with their despicable, disgusting and unlawful behaviour. Many Vets would not get the help that they are entitled to envisioned and established long ago by Bill Hughes and the Australian Parliament of the day.

Is this the Australian Way?

To give a small example of my case, it was going nowhere early 1998 and I asked for a Section 31, which is a review. The review was carried out and knocked back. A year later when I used the freedom of information act to check my file I found out the reason why. The file demonstrated that the clerk, a lady that looked at my file got my case details ALL wrong. She had mixed up dates and my income and then used a bull shit excuse to block my case.

When I first got the letter telling me on Friday, just that, the review was over and she was not going to do anything? I rang the her. This was on a Monday. Even though she had sent the letter the Thursday before she could not remember my name, and was surprised by me being upset? Durr! What she did was to decide my future by suggesting an injury I had was the reason I had left work and could not work, thus I had not left work for "War Caused Disabilities ALONE".

This injury was well documented at work. While I continued to work, getting treatment, and doing my job and all its tasks. So it was not the reason I was kicked out of work; nor had it stopped me from working anyway?

Now since that clerk was NOT a medical expert, how could she tell my injury was worse than my war caused ones? Could she do it by telepathy because she never spoke to me? Never sent me to a REAL medical person for a check up. Never suggested that I should go for a medical check up. No she never did any of that; in fact NEVER told me anything about her reasons for the decision. No all she did was knock me back without checking her facts, setting my case back by years by ASSUMING that my injury was stopping me work.

Now I ask any fair minded person to ask themselves:- how can a department which has as its CHARTER to "help and assist Veterans take this sort of action"? To allow a dam clerk with absolute NO medical training or skills make a medical decision by reading paper work and then not tell the Veteran why the decision was made?  

Is this the Australian way?

These are the people managing the 'System' that looks after our sick and injured Service people and war veterans. Once again in recent years the Liberal Government have once again changed the legislation to deny wounded and ill service and ex-service people from receiving the TPI.


What occurred to change all that was when my case was referred to a solicitor called Brett Williams. Brett worked in Sydney and I took him every scrap of paper linked to my case as well as a overview I wrote from my time in Vietnam in 1970 to the present day. From the very first meeting with Brett he filled my with a lot of confidence. One reason was the photo of a relation of his on his office wall, the photo was of a Digger who Brett was obviously very proud of. Here was someone who had a regard for those who had Served Australia and knew what it meant both to the Digger and the family and that I was not just another case.

Not that he or his firm would get much, as I needed legal aid to fight the government which Brett assisted me to get any way. I will never forget nearly 12 months later when he rang up to check a date for my case, I got a bit frustrated with Brett but you could tell he was pleased when he said "well I need that date so that the DVA can grant you your TPI" A Thank You is such a small word but for the help I got from people like Brett.

I like to put that "thank you" into action. For if I get a request for information from an Digger working on his case I will do my upmost to assist in any way I can to ensure that his is a win also. Over the years I am pleased to say I have played a part in helping a few Diggers gain a TPI.  


For some reason despite all the evidence available there are a number of people in the community and some unfortunately some are Service or Ex-service people who say that many are faking PTSD? Now in all the years I have in the Community since returning from the war I have not met one single soldier who has indulged in getting "coaching" for PTSD. I have met however a couple of 'wannabies' who desperately need to find out what it is all about; so they can apply to the DVA for a pension. Even one person who managed to convince the people who sent out that Certificate a few years ago a 'Thank You' for serving; to send him one. Now he did have a little Army experince but it was only a Reserve Unit.

However to return to the issue of Vets faking it. During the first 20 years after the war I was getting on with life as best as I could. Not realising that people around me not only saw how I behaved but in some cases made fun of me. When my Battalion first raised the idea of a Association it was 1990 just about 20 years after the war, when we had our first reunion. Now when I first met those Diggers I served with, did we sit around and talk about PTSD and what symptoms were involved. NO bloody way. It was all about the what you had been doing and "remember when". Nor did it ever happen at other Reunions since.

I never saw a complete list of the PTSD signs and symptoms until I was admitted to hospital in 1999. Yet if you read my (about) 1980 file when I first went to the DVA with problems and read my statements and then what the Doctors say, it is clear I had the condition then. So how do these 'experts' over look the Veterans behaviours of 30 years and of broken families? With the Internet providing a huge Ex-Service mates network these day, any sort of coaching for PTSD would be discovered and past on through the network.

Also the claims about the fakes are always about "some people", "some place" never any firm information only 'claims' and claims from people who no doubt don't suffer from the condition? Also their statements are an oxymoron in that, even if you had an idea of the state of PTSD how on earth could you suddenly start behaving like that with out an earth shattering event that triggers it? That in 'official' language is called a stressor, that is for example an event which threatens your life and leaves you with a sense of powerlessness to control your life. Thankfully most people move through their own life without any such event.

I am NOT saying that this only occurs to Soldiers, as these days our Police, SES, Nurses and Fire personal all deal with horror as part of their job and some will develop the disorder. However I will stick to the area I am aware of; that of soldiers with PTSD. It stands to reason that Soldiers on active service particularly on fluid battlefields like Viet Nam, Iraq and Afghanistan were civilians are involved both as combatants and victims, dramatically raise the opportunity for soldiers to face some terrible events, on top of being under constant threat of attack, from any area. Apart from the act of being under fire, by a deadly forces using small arms, machine guns and mortors.

When the disorder starts to manifest its self, mostly it is fellow soldiers, and family members see the change in behaviour before the person themselves. I maintain that it would be all most impossible to fake the range of behaviours that PTSD brings about. As a person has not only just convince the medical specialists they are sent to but others in the area that deal with injuries. Not to forget the direct family and friends.

Also the question must be asked why the hell would you want to? Do people from the outside looking in; having not idea of the daily trauma that a sufferer deals with. Not just your waking hours but those times when most 'normal' people get sleep. To the extent a sufferer is racked by nightmares or self medicates with pills and or alcohol to enable at least some time unconscious.

There is no doubt that there are cases of fake applications by frauds to DVA and wannabees that wear fake medals. But these should not be mixed up with genuine Service People or Ex-Service members trying to get assistance for a condition that is literally 'hell on earth' to live with.  



It was during the early 1980s that Australian Vietnam Veterans seeing the effects of war service on Veterans and families, started to question the failing health of many Veterans and if it was a result of the herbicide spraying of Vietnam? This became known under the collective title of 'Agent Orange'. This led to the formation of the Australian Vietnam Veteran Association who did mighty work to get the Associations up and running. All done by the Vets themselves many of who were very ill at the time. The work carried out by the Associations continues to this day. I joined the Association in those early days and have remained a member ever since.

The Vietnam Veterans Association also went through some changes some years ago, when after some internal problems the body spit and now we have two main bodies a Federation and a Association of Vietnam Veterans. This is a great pity to split those efforts when all Veterans should be in one body to fight the attacks that some in positions of power continue on Vietnam Veterans today and will do so in the future. Maybe in some future time the Veterans in both organisations will get together again, in ONE organisation as they were during our time in Vietnam?

PTSD those few letters that mean so much to Veterans and their families, as it takes over your whole life. Some of the symptoms of PTSD are:- Anxiety: Depression: Sleep Disturbance: Hypersensitivity: Irritability: Negative Beliefs: Intrusive Thoughts (about the trauma) Avoidance: Social Withdrawal: Hyper arousal: Communication Skills (poor).

If you are reading this and feel that these symptoms describe you, do something about it!

There IS REAL help out there these days, all it takes is a phone call or an email.





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