Veterans Centre, Taree

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This month we had the honour of meeting three humble returned service men. Between them they have served in Vietnam, Afghanistan and East Timor. All of them are involved in the Veterans Centre in Taree and are passionate about the work of the centre.

Damian Eady

What was your role in the Defence Force?

I was a Gun Number, firing artillery pieces. From there, I moved to the Command Post as a Signaller, and from there I became a Command Post Operator. I then went on to the hill as a Forward Observer Signaller.

What does that entail?

A Forward Observer is up on a hill looking at targets, because the guns are hidden away, and they can’t see what they are firing at. The Forward Observers are up close to the enemy, and call back to the command post to give them the directions where to fire.

Where did you serve?

I was posted up to Darwin for 5 years, and from there I went to Malaysia for 3 months. Then in 2006 and 2007 I went to Afghanistan as a Forward Observer Signaller; I also drove a Bushmaster 15 tonne armoured car.

What is one of the positive memories you have taken away with you from your time in service?

The mates … definitely the mates.

Why is the service that the Veterans Association provides so important?

Because when a lot of people get out of the defence force, they aren’t really sure of what they are entitled to or how to go about accessing services. The Vets Centre helps them navigate the minefield of the DVA through advocates.

They also help out by having social gatherings. A lot of veterans don’t really like talking to people about their experiences, so we all can go down there and spin ‘waries’ … you know, stories, and that sort of thing. They are the two most important things.

What piece of advice would you give to someone considering joining the Defence Force?

It’s definitely worthwhile, but you have to keep in mind that you may be sent to war, sent to kill people … it will sort you out if you’ve got no discipline or are lacking direction.

Do you think there is a danger for young people in thinking they are joining the army for the adventure, and they don’t consider the reality of what the job will entail?

Yes. There are a lot of them like that. They are all gung-ho until they realise they are going to have to kill people. It’s a steep learning curve. It does affect you … seeing people blown apart and stuff like that. You have to weigh it up.

The biggest threats in Afghanistan at the moment are IEDs – roadside bombs. You have to be on your game; they are the biggest killer over there now – not just people shooting at you. We copped rocket attacks and all sorts of things, but when you are driving a 15 tonne armoured car and there are enough explosives to just make you evaporate … I’ve seen some wild things …

So if you’re a young person [considering joining the armed services], you need to think about that.

Richard ‘Dicko’ Albert

Why is the Veterans Centre so important?

We look after Timor, Iraqi, Solomon Island Veterans, UN Peace keepers in the desert in Israel, everyone, and all the wars to come; we will be looking after these blokes. We did start out as the Vietnam Veterans Association, but it is now the Veterans Centre. It’s very good; it keeps us all together and we can talk on the same subjects without any worry of upsetting people. I find that good. We are very close knit.

Where did you serve?

With A sqn 3 CAV Regiment – an armoured unit in Vietnam. I fought in several major battles.

What are some of the positive things that you have taken away with you from your time in the services?

Knowing how to look after myself. The army will teach you everything. In civilian life you learn nothing.

What piece of advice would you give to a young person considering joining the Defence Force?

Do so. Get a head start and a permanent job. Make your parents proud. You’ll outgrow the kids you used to know ten fold, and you will become an important member of our community.

What are your words to live by?

Be fair, be hard and carry a big bat.

Damian Chester

What was your role in the Defence Force?

I joined in ‘93 as a cook, and then transferred across to become an engineer five years later. As an engineer, my role was to help construct things. I was a field engineer, so I had to construct obstacles to deny the right of the enemies to make a path through.

I also went out and looked for mines on the roads and stuff like that. The basic job of an engineer is to go out on the front line and find things that go bang.

Where did you serve?

I went to East Timor in ‘99 and served out of Dili.

You are now the President of the Veterans Association in Taree. Why is that so important to you?

It is important to me to see that the veterans have somewhere to go and have someone who looks after them, their wellbeing, welfare and their cases. You know, they helped me; I had no money in my pockets, having been discharged from the army in 2007, and basically had nothing and was told I was entitled to nothing.

So to become the President of an association that has helped me out is one of the best things I’ve ever done in my life.

So what is a positive thing that you have taken away with you from your time in the armed services?

Mateship. You can’t get anything better than it. To stand beside a person and know that they’ve got your back in any situation.

What piece of advice would you give to a young person thinking of joining the defence force?

Do it. The experiences and the jobs available in the defence force far outweigh the options on ‘civy’ street. There are opportunities, but make the most of it and take advantage of everything that is available to you.

Favourite words to live by?

Live life to the fullest.

Thank you gentlemen.


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