This Anzac Day, as you honour the memory and sacrifice of the brave men and women who have served our country, please dig deep and support our modern-day veterans and their families by donating to Soldier On.
Sharon Bown knows the impact of war and peacekeeping all too well.
As a Nursing Officer in the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF), Sharon was deployed to East Timor, Bali and Afghanistan. She has saved lives. She has seen lives come to an end. And she almost lost her own life.
In East Timor in June 2004, Sharon survived a helicopter crash but was left with a broken jaw and a crushed spine. In her own words, she was “broken and banged up”, both physically and mentally. With courage, time and determination, she fought her way back to good health, overcame post-traumatic stress disorder and resumed her duties as an officer in the RAAF.
But her battles were not over.
Less than a year later, Sharon lost her mum to a five-year battle with breast cancer. She also lost friends in a Royal Australian Navy helicopter crash in Nias, Indonesia. Nine of the 11 people on board died in the crash. The crash and loss of life had a huge and profound impact on her. She was only 30 years old.
A few years after that she deployed to Afghanistan as Officer-in-Charge of the second Australian Medical Task Force. Here she placed an Australian flag above the operating table so it was the last thing soldiers saw when they fell asleep for surgery and the first thing they saw once they woke up.
It was during this time, Sharon saw first-hand the devastating toll of war. She and her team worked hard to save lives, but sometimes without success.
Despite Sharon’s determination to continue to serve in the Defence Force, following her helicopter crash her physical condition continued to degrade. In 2015 she was devastated to receive a medical discharge from service. She had served for 16 years in the Royal Australian Air Force and was challenged by the process of transition, as are many veterans leaving the Defence Force.
Sharon turned to the ex-service community for support and now serves as a Member of Council of the Australian War Memorial, and is a Service Ambassador for Soldier On – working to support other veterans in their experience of service.
Without stories like Sharon’s, it is hard to understand the impact serving in the Australian Defence Force has on our veterans.
According to recent statistics, more than 20% of serving members will experience a mental health condition in a given year, while more than 50% of veterans will experience a mental health condition in their lifetime. Sadly, in 2016, it was reported 78 modern-day veterans in Australia took their own life.
Soldier On is focused on reducing the rate of mental health issues, unemployment, family relationship breakdowns, alcohol and substance abuse, homelessness and suicide among our modern-day veterans and their families.
By doing this, we can help them build better futures.
But we can only do this with your help. This April we are asking you to support our modern-day diggers and their families by donating to Soldier On.
If you experience distress associated with this email, Soldier On psychologists are contactable during business hours via firstname.lastname@example.org. Alternatively, if you would like to speak with someone immediately, including after hours and for crisis support, VVCS is available 24/7 on 1800 011 046 or Lifeline on 13 11 14 or Beyond Blue on 1300 22 463