This trek was the fourth in the current series to support contemporary veterans. By that I mean post Vietnam. A number of individuals have asked me why the focus has changed to target veterans post Vietnam. The answer is simple. The first concerns the impact of age as it relates to the ability of the participants to change their behaviour and life style. Many of the veterans we help, live a life style which does not generally conform to community norms. Many appear to live for today only; and many exhibit choices which are not conducive to a healthy life-style. To convince these veterans that there are other more productive life styles is one of our objectives. It is not easy and it is even harder with older veterans.

Briefing before going bush

Is it possible to teach an old dog new tricks? The answer is probably not often, so we try to avoid non productive, rusted on clients. However, in the past few years we have taken a number of Vietnam vets away with their younger successors. The experience has been both educational and enlightening. In some cases, the older veteran did not contribute but in some they have acted as a catalyst to facilitate a depth of group discussion much earlier than normally expected. In the case of the 2012 trek this was a standout. It was because the older veteran had come to grips with his condition and life’s foibles and was prepared to speak frankly about the challenges which face individuals in the same position as he was some 45 years ago.

What is the impact of such honesty and the stripping back of the confidentiality which normally accompanies this condition or circumstance? In a word; startling. The response from the other trekkers was un-mistakably supportive. Often it is helpful to compare what doing it tough is about. Whether is it listening to the station owners relate their personal experiences about the difficulties of living in the bush or to one of the group relate their own story. The other benefit of the sharing experience is simply a halving of the problem. As a consequence it is common for relationships which commence in the bush to blossom in the city. And that results in veteran to veteran support during tough times. That is a winner. Trojan’s Trek is not a cure all; we have never advanced that theory. However, as Dogs rightly preaches, “we are farmers, we simply sow the seeds to a better life.” Furthermore we are patently aware that most will face further ups and downs as time passes. The difference is that the veteran is no longer alone and he has the toolbox from which he can extract a solution.

Moose Dunlop OAM

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