Vietnam veteran and former Commanding Officer of the 1st Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment Lieutenant Colonel John Salter (Rtd)
24 / 04 / 2020
For ex-serviceman John Salter, being part of the Australian Defence Force didn’t just give him the opportunity to serve his country; it also came with an added bonus.
“For a veteran, his family is not only his next-of-kin, his mother and father, and children, but also his military family,” he said.
“That connection is built in to everything about military life. It’s incredibly important. From the moment a person joins the military there is a connection with your mates. The military trains people to work in groups and to connect with one another. You learn to trust each other and look after one another.
“You don’t have to go to war to get a sense of that camaraderie. You only have to go on a long exercise which is dirty and tough and you all suffer and you bond because of the shared experience.”
John has echoed the calls for the defence community to fire up that sense of being a family by joining the #CheckYourMates campaign this Anzac Day weekend.
With the alarming statistics around the rate of suicide amongst his veteran peers, John says it’s more important than ever to touch base with your mates and make sure they’re doing okay especially with the risk of increased isolation at this time.
“Now is really the time to make the effort to have a yarn with your mates, to maybe reconnect with someone you haven’t spoken to in a long time, and just have a catch-up to make sure they’re doing okay,” he said.
“We all know that Anzac Day can be a tough one for some of us, so that quick chat you have with someone could really change the mood of the whole day for them and for yourself as well.”
John says that connection is key to looking after your mental health, but reaching out for help when you need it can be a lot harder than it sounds.
“It’s incredibly difficult to ask for help. The last thing anyone wants is to tell other people how they feel because they think it makes them sound weak,” he said.
“This is the problem. It’s like a mind game that convinces you that you’re week and you can’t tell anyone about it because they’ll think you’re weaker.
“It seems to be a self-perpetuating thing, an ever-increasing circle that the more they think about it, the less they want to speak about it. But that’s not the answer. Asking for help doesn’t make you weak. It’s quite the opposite.
“But that’s why it’s up to all of us to pick up the little threads that are hanging out so you can catch it in time to tuck the loose ends back inside.”