Thomas shares memories with his family

Australian War Memorial

The Bridge and 5 inch Gun Mount of HMAS Brisbane that I served on was really significant to me. I visited with my partner Jaime and my three daughters. This was 18 years after I had been medically discharged from the Navy due to PTSD from a gunfire in that same mount.

While I felt myself being triggered when I first saw the gun mount, what surprised me was that it was the memories of the enjoyable times on that ship that overpowered the trauma memories. I remembered in three dimensional detail the good times - playing tug of war on the ship and looking back at friendships. It also gave my partner and children a context to what I went through and the trauma that happened in my life. My girls remarked what big guns they were!

Seeing this exhibit changed how I saw myself and my service. Through these memories and understanding the ships history, came the realisation that my service mattered. That even if I wasn’t deployed, I was a part of the continuity of this ship's history that served in Vietnam and the Gulf wars.

It made me feel proud and I felt the need to contact some of my old ship mates after I left the memorial. It helped me put my service back on the map of my life. It gave life to the stories I told my children. This was the first time I shared it with them.

If I were able to write a plaque for that exhibit it would say ‘Thank you for being here, for reminding me of the rough seas and helping me to remember the many good times and smooth sailing we shared.’