Melinda’s father Peter served in Australian Army, A & B Squadron and the 3rd Cavalry Regiment. His classification was “Trooper” but he drove APC’s.
Peter’s step-father was in the Australian Army in his younger days and was a member of the “Rats of Tobruk”. Melinda believes that this was her father’s inspiration to join the Army - to make his father proud and serve his country.
Peter and his wife married in June 1970 – he was 21 and she was 19. By the November of the same year he was posted to Vietnam.
Peter and his new bride wrote to each other every week. He drew loads of pictures of Snoopy and other “Peanuts” characters of the time and tried to make light of his struggles facing combat. To this day his family have a scrapbook filled with their correspondence.
“It was a very difficult time for both Dad and Mum”, Melinda said.
Like many veterans, Peter didn’t talk too much about his time in Vietnam. He said that ‘people who go to war don’t talk about it’. He did mention however, that what terrified the soldiers the most, was not knowing where the enemy was or who they were.
“My sister and I were fortunate enough to meet some of Dad’s colleagues from 3rd Cavalry Regiment at a Memorial opening in Tongala, Victoria a few years ago. It was wonderful to see so many families as proud of their Father/Husband/Brother’s contribution as we are.”
Peter was brought back to the civilian world straight from a war zone in the middle of the night and without debriefing.
“Whilst this was an amazingly happy time for all concerned, Dad did struggle trying to settle back into normality.
“Dad battled his demons for all of our lives; alcohol being his vice. He became a train driver and loved his job dearly. Unfortunately, his PTSD became too much to cope with and he had to leave this job to pursue a different career path. He had various jobs after this, but always struggled with his demons.
Our mum was our Dad's world. Unfortunately, she lost her battle with breast cancer at the young age of 54. This was devastating for all our family, but most of all for Dad - his heart was broken and he became desperately lonely.
Dad tried to keep busy and went on a few overseas trips to Vietnam and the UK. He found great comfort in going back to Vietnam, but ultimately, nothing filled the void of losing the love of his life and the only person who shared and could deal with his PTSD unconditionally.
“As children, we didn’t understand our father’s struggles. As adults, however, we understood and tried to provide the unconditional love and support he needed. We gave until we had nothing left to give and then somehow found more strength to continue. Unfortunately, after years of alcohol abuse as a result of PTSD, Dad lost his fight and died of advanced liver disease.”
When Peter was advised by doctors that he would not survive, it was suggested that he get his affairs in order.
“Dad was convinced the cost of his funeral was completely covered by Department of Veterans’ Affairs (DVA) so did not take out any form of funeral insurance or put away funds to cover costs. Unfortunately, Dad was mistaken; there was no death benefit payable. Our family was left to pay the cost.
“We found this extremely hard – both organising the funeral and finding thousands of dollars to pay for it. In the end, I used redraw facilities from my mortgages and credit cards to cover the cost.
“I wrote to RSL NSW and within a few days, received a telephone call from RSL DefenceCare and assistance with the cost of Dad’s funeral.”
“It was nothing short of amazing and really took the pressure off our family. We were able to start to breathe again.
“We then heard back from the DVA not long after our dealings with RSL DefenceCare, advising they too were going to assist with funeral costs - by some miracle, Dad’s words rang true and his funeral costs really were partially covered.”
“RSL DefenceCare is nothing short of AMAZING! They were there to support our family when we needed it. They were willing to help, care and respect our father’s memory as well as our grieving family. Thank you seems insignificant when trying to express how much gratitude we, as a family, feel for this organisation.”
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