Invictus and The Silent Veteran

For a Silent Veteran who had mostly avoided facing anything to do with the military the telecast of the Invictus Games in Australia kind of shook things up.

I saw a face I hadn’t seen since he graduated ADFA as one my senior classmen. He came up on one of the ads and I yelled out to my husband – “I used to know that bloke. He was one of the decent ones.” I knew him through the rowing team, but we weren’t close. Unlike me, he was a high achiever.  I don’t remember anyone who didn’t like him as a person. He was captain of the first eight rowing team and part of the senior cadet leadership team. He’ll see this article before I publish but I’ll admit that he was a bit of a star and someone the junior classes mostly looked up to. I’m sure his wife will agree that he was not terribly hard on the eye at that age either.

I never saw him again after he graduated until his face made it in to my loungeroom as part of the Invictus Games promotions. I’ll admit that I tried to avoid watching any of the Invictus telecasts. It was just stirring up too much stuff.

Here he was, on national television, admitting that life had dealt him a few punches and scars – not quite “new out of the box” like he used to be. Admitting that he wasn’t some kind of indestructible hero, that he and his wife and family face their daily challenges as best they can together. Admitting that some days are just shit and have to be endured. Posting it on Facebook. Telling people that if they just reach out their hand – someone will help.

Invictus had an impact in Australia that reached everywhere – even to my little fly speck on the map country town. The games did so much for the cause of the silent veteran in this country. For me, seeing the groundswell of support and positive national sentiment in my tiny local country community started to change my perception of myself and my problems. I eventually reached out to this wonderful man. His first words to me in over twenty years were “It’s bloody good to hear your voice, how are you going?”

I was volunteering at a horse show and a friend I had known since I was sixteen asked me straight out if I was going to ride horses at the next Invictus games.  Strangers and friends everywhere showing that they were proud of “their” veterans.

My family, who have mostly borne the main load of supporting me were understandably concerned as to how I would react to being confronted with all this “Veteran Stuff” after all this time.

Prince Harry gave the closing address to the games at the Sydney Opera house. I only remember one thing from his speech.

The morning after the closing speech I found myself standing in the sun on my front verandah. I was on the phone to my mother, crying so hard I could barely speak.

“Mum, I’m not a victim – I’m a survivor”.

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