Home' Defence Magazine : Issue 1 2011 Contents WWW.DEFENCE.GOV.AU/DEFENCEMAGAZINE > 43
The LAST WORD
As far as the wider community is
concerned, I think the support and
reverence ordinary Australians have for
‘19’ is that it’s their way of saying sorry to
our Vietnam veterans – “sorry we didn’t
think how us marching down city streets
protesting must have looked to you from the
rice-paddies of Vietnam; sorry we didn’t stop
to ask you how you were feeling when you
came home; sorry we didn’t understand that
this was a different war from the one our
fathers fought; sorry we didn’t pay attention
when you tried to tell us you were crook;
sorry we let the government work you over”.
For me, I Was Only 19 has been an
amazing gift. You can’t imagine what a
pleasure it is to be recognised out of the
blue by a veteran or a veteran’s family
member and be thanked so warmly and
genuinely. You can’t imagine what it’s
like to be an honorary part of the veteran
community, knowing you have a bunch of
mates who’ll be there for you when the
wind’s blowing in the wrong direction.
There’s no amount of money or success
that even comes close.
QAs narrator of the DVD,
what has been your personal
experience with PTSD, and
what message have you been able
to put forward?
I got PTSD when I assisted at the scene
of a fatal road accident after a Redgum
concert. The victims were wearing Redgum
t-shirts they’d bought at the gig that
day. I was pretty knocked about by the
experience. Fortunately, it dawned on me
early what was wrong with me. I had PTSD
(after all I’d written a song about it).
My family doctor, a mate with an
interest in psychology, helped me
through over a period of about three
months. The thing is I got help early
and I got better.
I suppose my message is that
anyone can get post traumatic stress
symptoms. They are a natural response
to a traumatic event. PTSD doesn’t mean
you’re soft, it means you’re human. But
the other reality is that sometimes we
can’t just ‘get over’ trauma but with
treatment we can ‘get past’ it. The other
message is that PTSD doesn’t have to
trash your life and the lives of those
around you. The sooner you get help, the
better the outcome.
The other key message for soldiers is
that Lieutenant General Ken Gillespie and
the other senior leaders have said that
owning up to PTSD doesn’t mean the end
of your Army career. They are genuine
about reforming the culture and the way
the organisation approaches soldiers with
psychological injuries. If I didn’t think
they were fair dinkum, I wouldn’t have
lent my song or my face to the project.
QWhat feedback have you
received about the DVD,
particularly from soldiers?
The feedback has been really fantastic.
Apparently, the demand for the DVD has
been so great they’ve run out and they’re
burning more. One bloke said to me “Thank
God it’s not death by Powerpoint. It’s a
real documentary with stories and music
like something we’d watch on TV if we
Interestingly, psychologists from outside
the ADF are looking at Dents in the Soul
and seeing it as a real alternative to
the “suck it up, princess” culture. A few
people in some of the state SES, police
and fire departments have seen the DVD
and they’ve tried to get something like it
produced for their own people.
In contrast, the Army is to be
congratulated for confronting the failures
of the past and having a go.
QIn light of your many live
performances for soldiers, how
gratifying is it to interact with
them in a social environment?
Playing for and interacting with soldiers
is really very gratifying. My band, The
Vagabond Crew, toured East Timor in
November 2009 and I can’t tell you how
much fun that was for all of us. It was the
experience of a lifetime. We were treated
like honoured guests by everyone. The only
frustration was that we didn’t get to play
enough! We only did three gigs.
QHow is 2011 shaping
up for you?
2011 is looking pretty interesting.
John Schumann & the Vagabond Crew
went down pretty well in East Timor so
we’re slated to go to Afghanistan
sometime this year – but we can’t
say when, of course. There was some
talk of launching the DVD at other
Army bases around the country and,
as I said earlier, some other talk of
doing something similar to Dents in
the Soul for the Navy, the Air Force
and for ADF families.
Outside of the ADF, I’ve been
approached to perform some
morale–building concerts around
the Queensland flood areas with
the band. I’ve got an album to
record for the ABC which is overdue,
some songs to write for the SA
Schools Music Festival and the band
is booked to play a few festivals
around the country as well. If that
isn’t enough, I’ve been having some
conversations with a publisher
about a book. I also hope to get
some ‘desert time’ in my 4WD
though I don’t like my chances.
Dents in the Soul is available via
the Defence website at:
“...anyone can get post traumatic stress symptoms.
They are a natural response to a traumatic event.
PTSD doesn’t mean you’re soft, it means you’re human.”
Above: (L-R) Major Lester Mengel from Army Headquarters, Mrs
Judith Mengel, John Schumann, Chief of Army Lieutenant General
Ken Gillespie and Sergeant McQuilty Quirke (front) at the launch
of the Dents In The Soul DVD at Lavarack Barracks in Townsville.
Photo: Corporal Mark Doran Opposite: John Schumann with a
Black Hawk loadmaster during a Forces’ Entertainment Tour of East
Timor in December 2009. Photo courtesy of John Schumann
TO SOuLFuL PROJeCT
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