Craig connects with his service and mates

Craig, Peer Advisor

I was interested in the video exhibit Operation Slipper in Afghanistan. My second Afghanistan deployment was 2010, which had the highest Australian casualty rate since Vietnam. This deployment was cut short for me when I was returned to Australia after only three months due to the premature birth of my daughter in Australia.

This video was significant because it helped me to connect to the part of the deployment (five months) when I wasn’t there. One of my best friends - my partner from our previous Afghanistan deployment - died on that operation while I wasn’t there. Jared (Crash) and I had been deployed together in 2008 to Afghanistan, however this time we were deployed in separate areas. There were parts of that story I didn’t know and hadn’t seen. I got to make sense of a lot of what happened. Shortly after leaving Afghanistan, one of the engineers I was working with 'Snowy' got struck by an Improvised Explosive Device (IED) along with 'Brownie', a dog handler. The section I had been a part of was tasked with recovering them. There was a massive period of time that I felt like I had let down a whole group of people because I wasn’t there. I served for ten years and my discharge took the last three years, they didn’t let me back to Afghanistan. My discharge wasn’t handled well, I was very hurt.

The difference that seeing this video made to me was helping me to reconnect with my service and my brothers - my best mate and partner - those who returned home and those who sadly didn’t. Once again, I experienced the feelings of pride and privilege to have served alongside them. Through this sense of pride, I reconnected to the values of discipline, hard work and integrity - qualities that all soldiers and decent humans need in life.

The only way to honour those who didn’t make it is to live a life full of these shared values and to make the most of life.

As I sat in the café, waiting to meet another Veteran I was about to do some work with, I noticed for the first time, a large photo of Crash and myself, sitting on the bonnet of a Bush Master in Afghanistan. I realised how much a part of everything I was and how far I’d come. I really liked that it wasn’t a formal exhibit. It suited my business meeting in the café.

If I could write a plaque I would write 'Brothers by Choice'. This is the informal acknowledgement of who we are. Many of us have it tattooed on our body or on jewellery bracelets. There are even a couple of cafés called Brother.