Thank you for your service and so much more.
One year ago today I received the call that Matt had passed. It was late in the day and as soon as I saw who was calling I knew the news I was about to receive. I felt such immediate loss and sadness. The sense of gratitude I felt that our paths had crossed was also overwhelming and unexpected.
Those who know Matt appreciate what he brings to the world; an infectious sense of humour, unmatched tenacity and the quintessential embodiment of mateship. He’s no saint and has a severe allergic reaction to mediocracy. This is what makes him ideally suited to his craft. He is a Australian Army Commando. This is how we remember our friend, our brother.
Matt helped me understand with vivid example the immense conflict that occupies the memories of veterans as they repeatedly experience injury and loss of life inspired by theatres of war. The simple matter of fact is that our minds are not designed to cope with repeated violence and loss or its consequent memories. It’s no secret that veterans face these demons and Matt was no exception. There were good days and there were bad because he was human.
Living with the experiences he had endured was never going to be a simple affair and he knew that. He fought to turn the corner to create a new life and he did just that. That’s why it was little surprise when the coroner ruled his death not intentional.
Here’s how he described his journey:
I’m a current serving member of a Sydney based unit and have served in the Defence Force for 11 years. Through my service I have sustained a number of injuries and, unfortunately, feel that my time in the ADF needs to come to a close.
Initially, the thought of leaving was daunting and somewhat terrifying. The skill sets I have are very unique and very specific, some of which can only to be used in warfare and combat. Many questions are asked of oneself, such as, how can I use these skills in the civilian world? Who would want me, given my experience? What could I possibly offer? I thought of only two possibilities, either I go back to study or I learn how to push trollies at Coles. At my age, neither seemed enticing.
These are common thoughts a transitioning soldier faces and guidance from the ADF is limited. You really start to feel very alone. There are always more questions than answers and, with that, the fear compounds with interest.
Fortunately, there is the Soldier On Golf Program. I have been lucky enough to attend two of these days and I’m here to say, I feel saved. The day really has very little to do with golf, it’s just the setting. It allows a comfortable, non-formal and entertaining place for soldiers to meet with business leaders. These meetings, and subsequent conversations, boost your self worth, your ability to contribute, your confidence and your golf game. All of the people attending have done so of their free will and really are there to, not only assist where possible, but also to listen to your story, to gain a better understanding. Everybody wants to understand both sides of the coin. From the soldier’s perspective, it is so refreshing and insightful. The words of advice and wisdom leave you thirsty for more and you quickly find yourself wanting to establish an outside connection to continue communication. You walk away, at the end of the day, feeling like you’ve made new friends, more direction focused and orientated to achieve specific goals, short and long term. It’s probably true, that yes, your next job wont require you to be able to strip and assemble 56 different weapon platforms or shoot targets 400 metres away and it most definitely wont care which way your boots are laced, but the more core values like initiative, teamwork, integrity, motivation, focus, dedication, loyalty and adaptability are important. As a soldier, you have these, you don’t see them as anything other than normal, but in business it is highly sought after. A business leader who finds an employee with all of these attributes has hit the jackpot. The Soldier On golf Program gives an opportunity to sell these attributes.
Networking wasn’t around when I joined the Defence Force, but now, with such social applications as LinkedIn, this seems to be the best way to gain an advantage in your future endeavours. It is strongly used by all successful business leaders and recommended by all I’ve met. This program enables you to ‘get that ball rolling’. All of the guys I’ve met so far have been more than willing to assist, further to the Golf Day, and take yet more time out of their busy schedules to help. If they can’t help you with a specific idea or direction, it is more than likely they will know someone who does. This also broadens your network of contacts and the ‘dark tunnel’ has yet more light cast upon it.
Matty left us early but rest assured, wherever he is right now, he is dispensing with those who are mediocre, bringing humour to ever task and forging a path inspired by those he loved.
To Janet, Gordon, Ben and Pat you are always in my thoughts and I send you my love on this difficult day.
There has never been a better time to receive support if you’re a veteran. There are no rewards for walking a difficult path alone. In Australia reach out to Soldier On or The Mission Continues in the USA (and there are a host of other great organisations) and meet veterans and teams ready to help you find a new life and new tribe. It’s the first step in a journey which is yours for the taking.