Don't forget about those war veterans who remain

AUSTRALIANS spend a lot more time remembering our dead soldiers than the ones who remain.

Anzac Day is emotional and most of the state's services pulled record crowds.

It's a special sight to see Diggers marching or being driven through the streets, medals pinned proudly to their chests.

For a week in the lead-up to Anzac Day, the stories of former soldiers and those now overseas fill the media.

And on this one day of each year we pat ourselves on the back for remembering our veterans and showing our thanks.

They deserve it. Every day.

These veterans will tell you what it really means to live in the shadow of war.

Their families are all too aware.

Drug and alcohol abuse. Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Limited support upon their return, and little idea where to look to find it.

Not all of them choose to remember. Not all of them will be seen on Anzac Day.

"How do you feel today?" I asked one veteran on April 25.

"Bloody miserable," he said.

When author and Afghanistan veteran James Brown drew attention to the imbalance between the money spent on remembrance versus the money spent on veterans and their families in Anzac's Long Shadow, he was howled down by critics.

There is absolutely no arguing the importance of a day dedicated to remembering the sacrifice Australian soldiers and their families have made.

There are, however, questions surrounding how they are treated upon their return.

Just last week I talked to some Vietnam veterans who were incredibly concerned about the men and women returning from Afghanistan.

The men I talked with, both of whom are involved in organisations helping veterans, had no way of finding these people to check up on them because of privacy issues.

They are worried that changes in the way people access these services will mean that fewer people try.

They are worried about the swift closure of the Defence abuse inquiry.

There are plenty more stories to be heard, they insist. They're just not easy for people to tell.

The Vietnam veterans I have interviewed know how important it is that people know they care.

There are dozens of names of Vietnam veterans on the wall of Launceston's RSL.

Too many died before they were 65.

How ironic that RSLs were encouraged to apply for grants to commemorate the Anzac centenary when the few remaining in the state struggle to stay open.

Former state RSL president Chris Munday used his Anzac Day speech last year to call for more veteran care.

This, for some reason, was controversial.

"I'd like to be sure that enough money is being spent on those that are returning ... to make sure that they're mentally and physically OK," he said.

"We're losing a lot more taking their lives than were losing over there being shot or maimed."

Tasmanian senator-elect and former soldier Jacqui Lambie this year agreed, accusing the Department of Veterans Affairs of covering up hundreds of suicides among serving soldiers and veterans.

Even without the alleged cover- up, the suicide rate of Afghanistan veterans is three times that of Australia's combat roll.

Why aren't we pouring money into looking after these people?

Isn't that respect?

Free, confidential counselling for veterans and their families is available 24 hours a day on 1800011046.


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