Murray Bridge RSL to host wellbeing day for community, veterans

Welcoming: David Laing, Mick Loeckenhoff, Cathy Smith, Sue Allam and Merv Schopp prepare for the community and veterans wellbeing day. Photo: Peri Strathearn.

Welcoming: David Laing, Mick Loeckenhoff, Cathy Smith, Sue Allam and Merv Schopp prepare for the community and veterans wellbeing day. Photo: Peri Strathearn.

The hardest battle for veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan may be the one they face when they return home.

Too often, a military career leaves servicemen and women isolated from civilian society and their own families, leaving them to fight financial hardship and inner demons alone.

A generation ago Vietnam veterans were the ones shunned by the RSL and society, punished for their participation in an unpopular war.

It took years for their struggles to be recognised, and even now some of them remain on the margins.

But now they, the grey-hairs, aim to welcome those who have followed in their footsteps and help them overcome their challenges.

"There's that many people out there in positions of need who don't realise what the community has to offer," Murray Bridge RSL vice president David Laing said.

"Our veterans, including those coming back from Iraq and Afghanistan that have PTSD, are falling through the cracks.

"They're tough guys, warriors, they don't ask for help, it's not the done thing; their wives, their kids, they're suffering as well.

"There's many Vietnam veterans' organisations operating in Australia ... but there's no such thing as an Iraq or Afghanistan veterans' organisation.

"The RSL is here for them now."

Advocacy is one of the organisation's central pillars, especially in helping veterans through the burdensome process required to squeeze entitlements and medical cover out of the Department of Veterans' Affairs (DVA).

Mr Laing and another sub-branch member are accredited DVA peer health advisors.

But mateship was most central to Murray Bridge RSL's philosophy, he said.

"Even if we can't do anything, we'll sit down and have a chat," he said.

Veterans and community members will be welcome to do just that at Murray Bridge RSL between 10am and 3pm on Monday, which falls during Veterans Health Week.

A wellbeing day will showcase the help available for anyone, ex-military or otherwise, who feels disconnected.

There will be short talks from a range of speakers, access to research through the RSL's virtual war memorial, exhibits in the RSL museum and a free sausage sizzle.

"All people need is a healthy appetite and an open mind," Mr Laing said.

The day is an initiative of the RSL and Uniting Communities in conjunction with the Murraylands Community Men's Shed, Silent Ripples and others.

  • Wellbeing day: 10am-3pm Monday at Murray Bridge RSL; phone 8532 1314 for more information.
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