Who or What is Soldier On?

Written by AHQ

28 August 2014

As you probably know by now Aussie Heroes was asked to create a quilt that could be auctioned at part of the fund raising for Soldier On at their Gala Ball tomorrow night in Canberra.
With the Soldier On Ball coming up tomorrow night and one of our quilts being auctioned as part of the fund raising effort tonight seems a good time to make sure you all know what Soldier On is all about.  

Believe it or not Soldier On was founded the same year as Aussie Heroes in 2012.  After the death of his friend, Michael Fussell, in Afghanistan as the result of an IED blast, the now CEO, John Bale, was looking for a way to support those who survived the blast.   He quickly realised there was no easy or accessible way for members of the Defence forces, or the public, to show their support for those wounded in battle.   The organisation was founded to connect the wounded men and women to the wider public, ensuring these brave men and women could be cared for and lead fulfilling and successful lives.  It does not get much more important than that. 

Soldier On’s purpose is to bring Australians together to show their support for our physically and psychologically wounded. They want to show the men and women of our Defence forces that they will always have their backs.

Thanks to the support of the Australian public, Soldier On works to enhance recovery, inspire communities and empower Australia’s wounded, giving those who have served our country the dignity they deserve and the chance to do and be whatever they choose.

Soldier On is independent of government and looks to build on the support offered by the Australian Defence Force (ADF) and other government agencies by supporting all of Australia’s wounded, serving and ex-serving.  They are funded by donations. 

They want to make sure our wounded are able to overcome the obstacles caused by their injuries; enjoy happy, fulfilling lives; and feel proud for the sacrifices they have made.  They also serve as the link between wounded Australians and their communities, allowing people from all walks of life to support our wounded men and women and help them succeed in their rehabilitation and beyond.

Did you know that there are more that there are more than 250 servicemen and women who have been physically wounded in Afghanistan.   We also know, however that the wounds suffered by some of our serving men and women extend beyond physical injuries.  According to Soldier On, research from the Australian Defence Force claims that between 2-8% of those who have served overseas suffer psychological wounds such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). This means of approximately 65,000 serving members who have been deployed overseas, between 1,300 and 5,200 people could be suffering from psychological wounds. Research out of the US indicates that the prevalence could be even higher, predicting that 11‐20% of the men and women who served in Iraq and Afghanistan suffer from PTSD.  The impact of PTSD on the serving member and their family can be debilitating and devastating.

It is essential that these wounded men and women know their communities support them through their rehabilitation. Physical and team activities have been proven to help in cases of PTSD in the military, and it is through these events that Soldier On is helping our wounded be the best they can be, and inspire the wider public to learn more about what these men and women go through as they heal.

Here are some of the ways that Soldier On supports the wounded and their families. 

Soldier On has set up a network of wounded liaison across the country and opened walk-in centres in Adelaide, Canberra and Sydney.  Our wounded and their families urgently need assistance in their recovery and reintegration into their local communities.

Evidence from the Soldier On Adelaide Pilot Centre has shown that the transition and rehabilitation experience is greatly enhanced when participants have a familiar and welcoming place in which to access relevant resources and support.  In this Centre, wounded and their families will have access to:

•           Wounded Liaison – peer support ensures personalised service and an ongoing point of contact for the individual client and their family throughout their rehabilitation, reintegration and beyond.
•           Inspirational Activities – opportunities for veterans and their families to participate in a range of tailored and group activities aimed at challenging and inspiring the individual, as well as their local communities.
•           Community Activities – coordinated to give individuals the opportunity to give back to the community and thereby build a sense of purpose around their reintegration back into society.  This includes weekly events such as PT sessions and Yoga run, as well as regular coffee catch-ups
•           Family Outreach –  family activities and respite for spouses. This offering will include workshops focused on developing familial cohesion, coping mechanisms, team dynamics and resilience. Examples of these activities include the ‘learn-to’ program, which teaches families new skills in a fun and supportive environment.
•           Up Skilling – education, vocational and other training courses will be identified and recommended. These may be delivered onsite or provided externally. Up skilling enables a smooth reintegration to civilian life for those transitioning out of the ADF or for individuals completing their rehabilitation program. 
•           Employment Assistance – partnerships with industry are currently in place and will continue to be fostered. Services on resume building, qualification assessment, interview training and general job seeking skills will be provided.
•           Psychological Support – vital to ensure that we can truly reintegrate those that have been psychologically wounded.  For example, the Vietnam Veteran’s Counselling Service (VVCS), will provide psychological care as required.

What they have achieved
In its two years, Soldier On has concentrated on providing a variety of ways in which wounded servicemen and women can enhance their rehabilitation, while inspiring others to do the same.

Soldier On’s achievements since it began in April 2012 have included:

            Opening its third Centre for those affected by their service, located at Milsons Point in Sydney.  Named in honour of fallen soldier, Lieutenant Michael Fussell, it is home to the widest range of services on offer at any of the charity’s Centres. It is expected to service hundreds of veterans over the next year.

            A team of six wounded veterans, and Soldier On supporters, rode from Sydney to Canberra to mark the 60th Anniversary of the Remembrance Driveway in April 2014.

The Prime Minister, Tony Abbott was able to join the final 30km.  The team competed in Trois Etapes Pro Am Cycle Challenge in the Pyrenees in this month, to help their recovery and raise funds for Soldier On.

            Soldier On opened refurbished gym facilities at St John of God Richmond Hospital, to assist in the rehabilitation of those receiving treatment there for psychological wounds.
The upgrade of the gym is the first project of its kind funded by Soldier On, with similar projects planned to enhance the rehabilitation of wounded around Australia.
The refurbishment includes a full suite of exercise equipment.

            Soldier On opened its headquarters and its second Reintegration and Recovery Centre in Canberra (the first being in Adelaide).  The centre offers PT sessions, yoga and drop in times for people affected by their service, and with more funding, will begin to hold workshops and provide in-house counselling and educational/employment support.

Soldier On was chosen as the Australian charity partner for the Virgin Money South Pole Allied Challenge. Working with the ADF and UK charity Walking With The Wounded, two Australians, Cpl Seamus Donaghue and Pte Heath Jamieson, were chosen to participate as members of the Commonwealth Team.  

They trekked 335km, with Prince Harry and wounded from the UK, USA and Canada, battling not only the challenges they face due to their wounds, but strong winds and temperatures as low as minus forty degrees Celsius.

            Soldier On Wounded Ambassador, Liam Haven, walked the 350kms from Sydney to Canberra this year to raise money and awareness for Soldier On. Losing one of his eyes in an IED blast in Iraq and left with only 2 per cent of his vision in the other, he was joined by his guide dog, Omen, and groups of sponsors and supporters. He was also joined by VIPs such as former PM John Howard, Chief of the Defence Force GEN David Hurley and Chief of Army LTGEN David Morrison.

            The first meeting of Australia’s living Victoria Cross recipients and George Cross recipient for the launch of a commemorative medallion set created by our partners the Military Shop.  This medallion set will raise significant funds for Soldier On and we thank all of these great men for their support.

Photo by Military Shop

A partnership with St Kilda Football Club, which has seen several wounded personnel meet with the team and share their compelling stories. They have also had the chance to attend training sessions and matches with their friends and families.  In the case of Liam Haven he was introduced to a hugely supportive crowd at the MCG and promote the issues facing wounded men and women.

So that, in a nutshell, is Soldier On.  Aussie Heroes are so pleased to be able to contribute a quilt to their fundraising efforts.  I hope you aren’t bored with seeing it but just in case you need a reminder here it is…

And there is the LINK if you want to put in a bid on the quilt or any of the other goodies that are included in the Silent Auction.

The following people have sent off quilts or laundry bags this week.   If you are not on the list and think you should be please let me know.
Liz J
Mary J 
Leanne F
Rita M 
Steph N
Stephanie T
Sue P

Till next time……………..keep spreading the word and happy stitching!
Jan-Maree xx

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  1. kiwikid

    Great to read Jan-Maree.

  2. Jo

    Wow that's is something that needs the support of everyone. Great quilt too.
    Good work to all that have sent their quilts off….


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