The most marginalised minority in our Australian society today is made up of arguably those willing to do the most for our country – and who already have.

Identifying as a Special Forces Veteran in Australia today, unfortunately, brings with it labels you might not expect including ‘war criminal’ and ‘murderer’.

These are men who know what real courage is. They’ve committed their lives, livelihoods and families to serve on the very front line for our country–they’re been the tip of the spear for Australia’s armed forces. At the very least, these men should be honoured and respected for their service to our nation (not to mention the other nations with whom we partnered). At their very best, these men are role models, who can inspire the young men and women who will be the future leaders of our great nation.

Instead, these men are readily torn down and told that their physical courage, combat excellence and patriotic beliefs are no longer values that are important or even acceptable to some in society today. Who happily prosper today off the back of the efforts and example of our Veterans gone before.

The reality is that our offensive military might is only deployed when the politicians and bureaucrats can no longer get the job done, when diplomacy fails, or when words and documents no longer deter those who would intend harm to our nation. Many seem to forget this fact, particularly those now in the positions of power that are responsible for what has become some of the most shameful and disgraceful treatment of our modern day heroes. As many of our Veterans are now left abandoned and alone to fight on a new front – exposed to the trial by media set against them by some sitting comfortably behind keyboards and character limits online.

Just this week the full name – and even hometown details – of a former SAS soldier accused of a crime while waging war in Afghanistan, was published. This goes against the assurances of ‘protected identity status’ declared by our military leaders. Policy designed to protect our Special Forces Veterans and their families from the real dangers in the world that waging war against evil in the shadows can bring in return.

This is the only protection our country can offer in return, and it’s been the agreed upon ‘handshake’ bargain since before we began operations in Afghanistan. This week, our media broke a sacred promise to its country’s protectors.

So where is the Defence Force leadership stepping up to support our Special Forces soldiers after their service has ended? How are we so ready and able to send these men off to war on so many occasions, tasked to defend our way of life with violent actions elsewhere, only to leave them standing alone on the frontline they now face back here at home?

Why don’t we see Australians spurred out onto the streets with raised voices and taking action to defend our Veterans now when it’s needed most? Perhaps it’s because our SAS and Commandos don’t conform to being victims, and instead quietly continue to serve by taking on these additional burdens. Perhaps if we speak the truth of what it actually takes to defend a nation and protect our way of life, it would bring discomfort to many within our society.  Discomfort to those pondering the morality and modern-day ethics of battlefields they ‘know’ only through snippets of footage from those on the ground, or drawn from reading the comments of a few in circumstances and context that many will never fully comprehend.

Yet this is the Australian society of today – or at least what many from our Special Forces are left to consider is the net return of their lives spent risking all and losing too many along the way. Society that now sees too many Special Forces Veterans shy away from mentioning their lives previously lived so fulfilled – too exhausted from the years spent fighting the real battles overseas to now tolerate those now invented on the safe shores back home.

So instead our Veterans go silent, sit with despair and watch while their mates, and worse yet – their families – are left alone like never before. When we were in combat and the enemy looked close to success, we could call upon the support of our nation to bring the military might needed to win our mission and help bring as many of our mates as we could back home alive. Yet now here we stand, calls left unanswered… no support on the way. At home in Australia where more Veterans have now been lost to suicide in the last 20 years than the total number of soldiers we lost fighting in the Vietnam War and Afghanistan combined.

This is the greatest shame and national disgrace of Australia today – our Veterans left voiceless – unless willing to expose their families to the real-world risks this could bring home. Veterans left hoping they have not been abandoned by the senior leadership they once served. With some of these senior leaders even demanding their soldiers return medals won fighting in real combat, while those same leaders happily hold onto medals of their own. Then on top of this all, some in the media choose to actually endanger the lives and livelihoods of our Veterans by openly publishing their names, pictures and personal details, exposing them to a lifetime of judgement before any judicial trial. Journalists who justify this as their right to freedoms of media and speech – rights they have taken as entitled and not otherwise earned.

Where are the voices of those Australians who will stand with the men of our Special Forces and their families now in their time of need?

Coo-ee- to all Australians we are calling… Won’t you answer before it’s too late..?

Heston Russell
Managing Director – Veteran Support Force


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One comment

  • Wally Mcleod ex vietnam vet 1RAR 65-66 and 9RAR 68-70 March 28, 2023  

    Absolutely agree 100% with you Heston! The Woke media has a lot to answer for in the way they have prosecuted these allegations and our gutless top brass should also be held accountable.
    They have not stood for our soldiers and this scenario reeks of Breaker Morant, politically expedient.

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