It should be just a matter of trust

By Heston Russell

I have taken the past few months to meet with a considerable number of veterans and their families who have reached out following the release of the Brereton Report in November last year. I listened to accounts that made me shocked, saddened, disappointed and disgusted at the way that these Australian citizens had been treated.

With Australia Day just passed, the irony of just how un-Australian some of the stories are is not lost on me, confirmation of the toxic leadership culture in our defence force. I listened as wives told me how they watched their husbands deteriorate from proud patriots to being so fearful that they would take their own lives.

Mothers told me how they were torn apart deciding to send their children across the country to live with their grandparents because they were fearful for their safety at home.

Fearful because they had been contacted by members of the Australian media and faced threats that if they didn’t support an article or comment their stories would be made public.

These accounts came directly from the families of those who have already had actions taken against them by the Australian Defence Force before and after the official release in November 2020.

I heard of how during the Brereton Inquiry, actions were still initiated as far back as March 2020 to remove current serving members from active service. The removal of their financial allowances and placing them on restrictions. I heard of the complete isolation of these military personnel and their families from their workplace supervisors and support. As I sat and listened, often coming to tears as they also told of the incredible trauma this has caused their families, marriages and children, I continued to ask one simple question: Have any charges been laid? With every response: No. I even went further to ask: Have you been questioned by the police? Every response: No.

Then with the issuing of notices calling for their termination from the Army, families ‘endured’ these periods without response, filled with uncertainty for their futures.

Of all the questions and emotions that arose, I simply found myself asking: Why are these actions being taken now.

It has been seven-plus years since the last Special Operations Task Group (SOTG) returned from Afghanistan.

Veterans of all ranks, trades and experiences are filled with disgust and outrage at our most senior military and political leaders. Many felt abandoned and left with mortal injury, many veterans spoke of how this had caused them to feel tarnished and ashamed at the lack of leadership.

They query how they could identify with, let alone trust them.

However, many veterans were grateful the Australian public had front row seats to finally see these toxic leaders and their culture of securing personal and political advantage through focusing their service and support to those above but not below their rank or authority.

My hope is that all actions from here will allow this due process the support and integrity it requires. While some may speak of ‘a few bad eggs’, culture comes down from those who lay the path by example for others to follow. We must now work to further support these veterans to bring more transparency and accountability up and down the chain of command.

HESTON RUSSELL IS A RETIRED SPECIAL FORCES MAJOR AND THE FOUNDER OF VOICE OF A VETERAN.

Agent Orange Exposure Doubles Risk of Developing Dementia, Study Finds

A U.S. Huey helicopter sprays Agent Orange over Vietnam. The U.S. military used at least 11 million gallons of Agent Orange in Vietnam from 1961 to 1972. Wikimedia Commons

26 Jan 2021

Military.com | By Patricia Kime

A new study of more than 300,000 Vietnam-era U.S. veterans has found that those who were exposed to Agent Orange are nearly twice as likely to develop dementia as those who were not.

The new finding, published Monday in JAMA Neurology, is among the most substantial to date linking cognitive decline with chemicals used for defoliation during the Vietnam War.

For the study, researchers at the San Francisco Veterans Affairs Health Care System examined the medical records of thousands of veterans and found a two-fold risk of dementia for those whose medical records indicated evidence of exposure.

According to Deborah Barnes, a researcher with the University of California San Francisco and the Department of Veterans Affairs, the study authors found that, over the course of time, 5% of veterans with a documented exposure to Agent Orange were diagnosed with dementia compared with 2.5% of vets with no known exposure.

“Even though the absolute rates … are low, these veterans were still relatively young, so if the risk holds, we would expect that to increase as they age,” Barnes said in an interview with JAMA Neurology.

The research also discovered that the exposed vets were diagnosed an average of 15 months earlier than non-exposed veterans — a finding that can have a huge impact on former personnel, their families and society as a whole, Barnes said.

“Studies have found if we could delay the onset of dementia by a year or 15 months, it would have a huge impact on the population prevalence over time,” she explained.

For the study, the researchers reviewed the medical records of Vietnam veterans who received care through the Veterans Health Administration from Oct. 1, 2001, to Sept. 30, 2015. They excluded anyone already diagnosed with dementia and those whose Agent Orange exposure was unclear.

They found that even after adjusting for other factors and conditions that can play a role in the development of dementia — psychiatric conditions such as post-traumatic stress disorder, medical conditions like diabetes and Parkinson’s, or demographic variables — the two-fold risk remained.

“We did observe that veterans who had a history of Agent Orange exposure were more likely to have PTSD in their medical records or traumatic brain injury, so they did have other conditions that could increase their risk of dementia, so we adjusted statistically and … yes, there [still] is an association,” Barnes said.

Throughout the Vietnam War, U.S. forces sprayed more than 19 million gallons of defoliant, including 11 million of Agent Orange, to clear the jungle and destroy crops. From 1962 to 1971, at least 2.6 million U.S. service members were stationed in Vietnam and other places where the herbicides were sprayed or stored.

Thousands of veterans have been diagnosed with varying types of cancer, heart disease, diabetes, Parkinson’s disease and peripheral neuropathy as a result of exposure to the herbicides, according to the VA.

The research didn’t explain why exposure may be linked with the development of dementia, but one of the main ingredients of the defoliants — dioxin — is known to be stored in fat tissue where it “sticks around for a long time,” Barnes said.

“It’s possible that Agent Orange stayed in the fat tissue and is slowly being released and causing toxic effects on the brain. But we also know that Agent Orange increases the risk of other disorders that themselves are risk factors for dementia, so it’s unclear if it’s a direct effect of the dioxin, an indirect effect or possibly a combination,” she added.

The researchers said that their study has some limitations, including concerns over the accuracy of Agent Orange exposure documentation in medical records or misclassification of a dementia diagnosis.

Also, the study did not include veterans who receive care outside VA or contain any baseline cognitive scores, which could have revealed whether any of the veterans had undiagnosed dementia at the start.

The researchers suggested that additional studies be conducted to determine the relationship between Agent Orange exposure and dementia and added that they hoped it would encourage physicians to screen their patients for the condition as they age.

Dementia is on the rise in the aging veterans community, with a 20% increase expected among VA patients over the next decade, according to the department.

Barnes said she also would like to see more research on the positive steps patients can take to offset increased risk — physical activity, healthy lifestyle choices, treating their mental health diagnoses and more.

”We can’t change our past. … What you can control is what you are doing now and what you do in the future. My hope is that, even if these veterans have this risk factor, engaging in a healthier lifestyle may help them offset that risk,” she said.

— Patricia Kime can be reached at [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter @patriciakime.

BOOST IN SUPPORT FOR VETERAN MENTAL HEALTH 

Mental health providers, social workers and community nursing providers who provide vital services to our veteran community are set to receive a boost in funding from the Australian Government with an increase in fees from today.

Minister for Veterans’ Affairs Darren Chester said the Government committed $94.3 million in the Budget to increase fees paid to mental health, social work and community nursing providers, and ensure continued high quality care for our veterans and their families.

“Maintaining competitive fees for these mental health and community support providers will enable better outcomes for our veterans and their families, and encourage providers to continue to offer services to support members of the veteran community through challenging times,” Mr Chester said.

“It was crucial that the Government continues to deliver positive change to boost support for veterans’ mental health and wellbeing, particularly as we navigate a global pandemic.

“This Government has invested in the veterans’ affairs portfolio year-on-year and will continue to do so to ensure we are putting veterans and their families first, including by regularly examining the fees paid to providers for health services.”

The $94.3 million over four years to improve mental health outcomes and ensure high quality care for our older veterans and their families, and to better support their transition to civilian life by increasing fees paid to mental health, social work and community nursing providers.

“I would like to acknowledge the ongoing advocacy by ex-service organisations and peak bodies who work with us in partnership to ensure our veterans and their families have access to world-class care and support,” Mr Chester said.

“For any veteran out there who may be struggling, I encourage you to reach out for help. Support is always available.”

More information on mental health support available through DVA is available at dva.gov.au.

For support, Open Arms — Veterans & Families Counselling provides free and confidential support for current and ex-serving ADF personnel and their families. Help is available 24/7 on 1800 011 046 (international: +61 1800 011 046 or +61 8 8241 4546) or visit www.OpenArms.gov.au

MAJGEN DAVID DRABSCH, AO, MBE.

MAJGEN DAVID DRABSCH, AO, MBE.

Sadly I advise that the former CO 6RAR 1970-72 died at Buderim Private Hospital, Buderim yesterday morning, Thursday, 28th January 2021.

He was 89 years of age and had been in good health until the last and the end was swift and merciful.

 

Preparing for War is Never an Each- Way Bet

 

An old mate, officially recognized for bravery in war, recently reflected on the erosion of our precious way of life. His concerns, shared by many veterans, included increasing national fragmentation, spurred on by constant political brainwashing with emphasis on them and us; (as opposed to obvious strengths such as one people, one nation.) His concerns also embraced the gradual and sly campaign by Thought Police slowly stealing our freedom of speech, the very base of any democracy. Nor, he added, should we ignore the current official condoning of radicals distorting our proud history into evil deeds.   

He, like other veterans was asking if military service had been worth the effort in protecting values so vital to our precious way of life? The answer is YES, it surely was. However, no one, but no one had predicted the constant greed, megalomania, incompetence and blinkered vision demonstrated by an alarming proportion of our political representatives.  Removing self -imposed blindfolds would reveal to them that our way of life is being destroyed by a noisy and destructive minority. The stark reality is our treasured democracy will not survive without national unity and social disciplines. (Keep your fingers crossed for the USA, for where they go, we go)

Politicians capable of leadership, and with the courage to demonstrate it, should no longer linger in the shadows, but step forward to lead. This includes the need to educate their colleagues of the strong measures necessary in military training to win wars. For their fellow politicians to clearly understand the first step is to remove all the obstacles to military training insisted on by trendy, naïve and rowdy disciples of political correctness. It would also be appropriate to remind all parliamentarians that sound preparation for war also includes weaponry, toughness, resilience and always a strong national spirit of pride, purpose and unity. It’s all of us together, not just those who pull the triggers.

Our beloved military is changing, as it should, to confront the challenges of the space age, but never with the current iron shackles of political correctness, or other impediments which will dilute its fighting spirit, resilience, toughness and capabilities

As for my mate and many others who wore the proud cloth, they wouldn’t have missed serving their beloved country for Quids. Me too!.  

                                 A Letter to old Soldiers

Remember swearing the oath, thinking you were special and still free

Then you arrived at the depot to become idle horrible people for all to see

Day and night Spartan routines, which would please any father’s heart

Before dawn, sleep stolen by a bugle call for another long day to start.

Polishing, beds made, rifles cleaned and a rushed meal of porridge glue

Barrack room inspections revealed specks of dust thus extra chores to do 

 

On graduating to a unit, it became your family forever and a day

More rules, and if you broke them, the only hope was to pray 

“Honour, love of country, duty first and all for one and one for all” 

Your heart and mind so responsive to each and every bugle call

You were ready for war, to fight and win, and always care for each other

To make sure; there was a fierce, angry sergeant as your adopted mother 

 

In war you tasted grief, hunger, thirst and so often, doubts and fear

Courage was fueled by the comfort of comrades, ever so near 

There was faith in your leaders and all of you were as one

When all seemed lost, and as ordered, you all stood fast and won 

Whatever the odds; never did you relent heart and spirit to any foe.

When you came home; sadly, many carried packs of restless woes 

 

Those who have not been part of the military will never understand why

Soldiers risk all with the fall of the dice as they go forward to live or die.

Their lives bound by proud history, honour, duty, and dear comrades all

To dishonor the sacred creed is to be banished and never again to stand tall

Their strength is unity, mate ship, pride, love of country and its way of life  

Always shared are the precious dreams, often conceived during bloody strife

 

Now you grow old and a new generation of soldiers marches by with pride 

Like you once were; in step, heads held high, and always as one, side by side

You can watch and cheer the young column, yet no longer follow

Young hearts, laden with the unknown; spirits high, marching into tomorrow

They pass aged footprints of peace and war where you have already been

Then will be your last and smartest salute, until the column can’t be seen

George Mansford©January 2021

 

1732884 Neil Stuart Luxford

A notice in today’s Townsville Bulletin advises that the funeral service for the late 1732884 Neil Stuart Luxford that was to be held on Friday 8 January has been postponed until further notice due to weather conditions.

Neil served with 3RAR (and Reinforcements) in South Vietnam from 21 May 1968 to 21 November 1968.

14910 CAPT JAMES ERIC WIELAND

Sadly I advise that Jim Wieland passed away on Monday 04 Jan 21 at his home in 1770 after a short illness. Jim served in Vietnam with A COY 6 RAR 1969-70 and AATTV 1971-72.

Jim was 2IC A Coy 1968-1970, including the second tour in Vietnam, although he spent most of the tour as the Liaison Officer working with the Regional Force and Popular Force elements of the South Vietnamese Army throughout Phouc Tuy Province.

His funeral will be held at the Woodgate Hall QLD next Tuesday 12 Jan 2021 at a time yet to be advised. The wake will be at the Woodgate Club after the funeral.

War Between US & China In “Three To Five Years”

Australian Lawmaker Predicts War Between US & China In “Three To Five Years”

by Dave DeCamp

With US-China relations at their lowest point in decades, one of Washington’s closest allies in the Pacific is gearing up for a potential war between the two superpowers. In an interview with Australia’s Seven News, Australian Senator Jim Molan said he expects a conflict to break out soon.

“We are likely in the next three to five years or in the next five to ten years to be involved in a war between China and the United States,” Molan said. The senator made the comments while discussing the budget and capabilities of Australia’s military. “The ADF (Australian Defense Forces) has never been better than it is now,” he said.

Molan voiced his concern over Washington’s current military capabilities, particularly the size of the US Navy. “In 1991, the US Navy was 600 warships strong. Now it’s less than 300,” he said. The politician who is a prominent voice in the national political commentary is also a former major general in the Australian Army.

He said further:

“It is not inevitable and if we prepare, there is a chance it will not happen,” Mr Molan told Sunrise. The former Australian Army Major-General said China has been primed for war for a “long time” as well as the US.

“They [China] are picking fights with their neighbors around the world and they have extraordinary military capability, not just in rockets and aircraft but in overall capability to do things,” he said.

Like Washington, Canberra has taken an increasingly hostile stance against Beijing in recent years, and China-Australia relations have been rapidly deteriorating. Both the US and Australia have taken steps to boost military partnerships in the Indo-Pacific with the aim of countering Beijing.

The US, Australia, Japan, and India make up the informal alliance known as the Quad. In November, Australia joined the other quad countries in the annual Indian-led military exercises known as the Malabar.

It was the first time since in over a decade that the Quad countries held military drills together.

Australia and Japan recently reached an agreement on a new military pact that will allow their militaries to operate on each other’s soil. Once the pact is implemented, it will mark the first time in 60 years that Japan allows another foreign military besides the US on its soil.