Rob reflects on his journey with gratitude

The area of the Australian War Memorial that was significant to me was the Afghanistan area. It was significant because there weren’t a lot of Iraq exhibits — which is where I deployed — however, many of my friends and colleagues from Iraq also deployed to Afghanistan and seeing images of them linked my thoughts back to my own service.

One exhibit that really touched me was an exhibit of Tim, who I met three days before through the Open Arms Peer program. Seeing his boots and reading his story was significant to me because it helped me reflect on my own journey with pain due to injuries to my legs.

Throughout my service, I have needed to manage the pain of multiple fractures and hot spots in my lower legs due to Bi-Lateral Compartment Syndrome, which developed during service. When I saw Tim's boots, I saw that no matter what size or shape we are or what injuries we might have, everyone always had the same boots in the Army. This helped me reflect on details of how much pain the standard issue boots caused me and how I managed that pain throughout my service career.

What this made even more possible was that I felt gratitude. My deployment in Iraq didn’t require Pack Marching, which meant I could go to the American Convenience Store, the PX, and buy some comfortable shoes which relieved the amount of pain I endured in the boots. I also became grateful that my injuries happened during service and not at some other time, since I was receiving good medical and financial support.

Looking at Tim’s boots and remembering the happy-go-lucky kind of guy he is, despite his injuries, loss and pain, I was reminded that there is always someone worse off than yourself and not to judge a book by its cover. I was also reminded to be kind to people because you never know what they are dealing with in life.

My experience in the Australian War Memorial reminded me that ‘No Matter where you are or what you’re dealing with – there is always someone willing and ready to help you along the way.’