At just 12 years old, Robin was living in a boy’s home, where he joined the navy cadets. An apprenticeship at the dock yards in Victoria followed at age 15 and by 17, Robin decided he wanted to join the full time Navy and see the world.
Robin came from a military family – his father served as well as relatives as far back as 1638.
Robin was in the Navy for 16 years, and like many, left behind his wife and family during his time overseas with the Navy Submarine Special Operations unit. During his time in the Navy, Robin met, in his words, “some of the best people that I could have ever met in my life”. He is still friends with them to this very day. His squadron was a unique brotherhood and to this day they can call on anyone for help at any time, for support or just a chat.
“The group of men I served with had the most incredible set of skill levels, they weren’t there for the pay and it wasn’t a 9-to-5 job.” Robin’s fondest memories of serving include being able to see places like Yokosuka in Japan and Singapore with his mates, meeting locals and immersing himself in the culture.
He recalls having BBQs on the casing of a submarine in the middle of the ocean and jumping off the side with several thousand feet of water underneath to go for a swim. He and his fellow submariners were very grateful for a shower every 10 days whether needed one or not and has vivid memories of washing his overalls in the garbage bucket once a month.
Beds were shared, with the previous man’s sleeping bag rolled up as a pillow. After returning to shore, all the sleeping bags were thrown out as they had usually rotted away. Robin also worked in black or red light for weeks at a time and never knew if the food had passed its expiry date.
When Robin left the Navy, everything went off the rails. He found it difficult to adjust to civilian life, with multiple admissions to hospital for PTSD and a significant decline in his overall health.
“The help that we have received has been unbelievable.
“I was referred to RSL DefenceCare by the RSL Veterans’ Centre, East Sydney. I really wanted to mention them as they referred me to RSL DefenceCare. At that point we weren’t asking for anything.
“When RSL DefenceCare came along, I can’t describe what they did. RSL DefenceCare paid for the CPAP machine, which assists me to breathe while I sleep. This machine is critical to my survival and were about to return the machine we were renting as we couldn’t afford it.
“I have a terminal illness and can’t work or look after myself and my partner. We couldn’t afford to live – we couldn’t even feed ourselves.
“RSL DefenceCare has also helped us find a home. They considered where it was, as we needed to be near the hospital (for my treatment) and public transport. It is also near a park and has lots of windows - it was very well thought out.
“Now we don’t just have an existence, we have a life with the short time that I have left and we can enjoy it. It is a about quality of life now, where we say what can we do today.
“I was in the hospital last week and all I could think about was so looking forward to going home and enjoying my home and life.”
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