This week Australia has been honouring the men and women who’ve served the country, however the reality is that many veterans struggle with life after returning – for a number of reasons.
Ken Atkinson, president of the Mudgee and Districts Sub-branch of the Vietnam Veterans Peacekeepers and Peacemakers Association of Australia (VVPPAA), said the voluntary organisation is aiming to help those that need it.
“The major concern, particularly with younger veterans, is the suicide rate,” Mr Atkinson said.
He added that it’s important that veterans not isolate themselves and offer a meeting place at the local VVPPAA office at the Mudgee Railway Station.
“We now have here a drop-in centre for the veterans; they can get a nice coffee from our machine and the Brewery have donated the coffee beans for, there’s a TV and DVD, books, and lounges,” he said.
“A lot of the guys from out of town would come into the supermarket with their wife and then sit in the car while she did the shopping, so I said ‘come up here’.
“We’re trying to make it social, there’s something like 30 veterans in the region that are somewhere out there that we never hear from.
“It’s really important that they get together, because a lot of them have gotten out of the military and suddenly they haven’t got that back up.
“Nobody’s got their back anymore and that brings them down big time, so if they come here and socialise that’s a good thing.”
The VVPPAA also offer an advocacy service for dealing with the Department of Veterans Affairs and in making sure they’re on the correct pension – something he doesn’t recommend doing themselves.
“We’ve got guys here who turn 65 and go onto the Aged Pension when they should be on the Service Pension, which is specifically for service personnel, and they should’ve been on it when they were 60,” he said.
Mr Atkinson said that they just want to make sure that veterans don’t pay too dearly for their service.
“There was a great saying I was told recently, it was along the lines of ‘a serviceman whose served his country has written out a check to the government to the value of his life, hoping they don’t cash it in’,” he said.
Those in need of help can contact Ken Atkinson on 0428 246 147 or drop in to the VVPPAA office, corner of Inglis and Church streets, Mudgee.