On Saturday, Cath Hpr, Kristie, Jenny D and her husband John and Bel P accompanied myself and my husband, David to present the Invictus LBs to the Aussie Team. I asked everyone to make sure they had their cameras ready as I would not be able to take photos so would appreciate it if they could. I had expected to come home and write a post to share with you all but I am grateful to say that Cath wrote this account and she has done such a beautiful job that I am very happy to share it.
Over to Cath….
The skies were grey and overcast but this didn’t dampen the spirits of the Invictus Team Australia or their visitors (Jan-Maree Ball, David Ball, Belinda P, Kristie H, Jenny D, John D and myself). The team had recently been issued with their kit and new uniform. After lunch the team were moved into a room ready for a surprise presentation.
The room was a field of green and gold and lots of smiles.
Jan-Maree was introduced, and she asked the group “is there anyone here who has not heard of Aussie Heroes?” From the back of the room a hand was raised. She explained how it started from a simple gesture of kindness of making a quilt for an injured Australian serving member and then through a friend whose husband was serving overseas and what could she do to help. From these humble beginnings to now over fifteen and a half thousand quilts and over thirty three and a half thousand laundry bags now have been given to our military personnel.
Jan-Maree spoke about the time taken by the quilters. She asked the quilters present to put their hand up, so the team knew who they were. She spoke about the time involved to make these creations- quilts and laundry bags, for example it takes an hour to embroidery on Army crest to give them some idea of how much work goes into them.
In no particular order she read out the names and the team member came up to receive their individual personalised laundry bag from her and pose for an official photo. The room was filled with people unwrapping their new prized possessions, full of smiles, a few misty eyes and such gratitude.
I had the pleasure of sitting next to Danielle H and seeing her open her stunning bag and she extended her thanks, becoming emotional at seeing the gold paw prints and the name Poppy, her Defence fur baby, companion and support who was lying at her feet that had been embroidered over her bag. Her maker was Deb K from South Australia, and she had created a marvellous, stunning, creative, unique design bag.
Four of the team have Defence Community trained Labradors. Three female team members each have a female Lab and the male team member has a black male Lab called Benji. While their special canine support companions will not be travelling to Dusseldorf with their owners, Dusseldorf has something special for these competitors. They will be providing a room for them, with dogs in them for the team members to sit and spend time with these fur babies, as they will be missing their own canine companions. How special and thoughtful that this is being done for them.
Photos were taken of the team holding up their laundry bags on the hill outside and also with the Aussie Hero team who went to present. Individual photos were taken with the recipient and their maker who was present. It was also a brief time to engage in conversation with grateful recipients. In chatting with Francine D, she was very moved receiving her special laundry bag. It meant so much to her and something she will treasure.
Cath Hpr and her happy recipient and Gigi, her fabulous dog.
Jenny D and her recipient.
Kristie and her recipient.
The whip was cracked (metaphorically speaking) to direct the team off to their team training sessions. Belinda, Kristie and I went to watch the wheelchair basketball team practice. A local team came to join them and put them through their paces. The local team were very good at blocking Team Australia and scoring, sadly, more goals, beating Team Australia. It was here that Benji made himself know, demonstrating very friendly Labrador behaviour and scoring the dog treats that I had brought along, with his Dad’s permission of course.
From here we moved off to the rowing team meeting and seeing them train. The team took turns on the machines while the coaches checked their technique and provided feedback. Taryn Dickens, Co Captain, had her own personal supervisor, Gigi her chocolate Lab who would stand and watch her and lie next to her while she worked out.
Speaking with one of the coaches he explained how the goal was to improve their fitness, engage them in a sport, help with their rehabilitation and that they could take this and join their local community sport which would be a positive influence in their life. Everything we saw with their training was gentle, positive and encouraging. This was reflected in how team members conducted themselves, for example when a collision on the basketball court occurred. Their nonverbal communication, gestures showed respect and were a positive interaction.
In the teams bios they are asked What does unconquered mean to you? Mark Armstrong said “play fair, be nice, give your all and don’t give up. Francine Dudfield said, “Having a positive growth mindset that encompasses patience, tolerance, understanding and compassion towards myself and others.” Verity Sanchez said, “It is eloquently stated by J.R.R. Tolkein: It is not the strength of the body that counts, but the strength of the spirit.” Nathan King said, “Overcoming adversity, don’t let it beat you, get on with your life and strive to always lead from the front.”
Today it was clear that these views and aspirations that our team value, hold and have expressed were being lived out in their daily lives as was evident in their training and personal interactions.
As Danielle said, “In the ADF you represent Australian every day whenever you put on the uniform”. These men and women will be wearing a uniform in Dusseldorf, the green and gold uniform. They go and do things that most of us cannot do or imagine doing. They go with our love and support, and we wish them an amazing time of personal excellence, comradery, developing and deepening friendships and an incredible time in Dusseldorf. We will be cheering you on from home here in Australia.
GO TEAM AUSTRALIA!