AN Ipswich chapter of a national program is helping young veterans and their families connect with the RSL while promoting mental well-being.
Corporal David Wyatt, who serves in the army and is based at Amberley, spearheaded the establishment of Young Veterans Ipswich.
The organisation was founded by two brothers in Victoria under the Dandenong RSL to encourage veterans under the age of 60 into RSL sub-branches across Australia.
Cpl Wyatt said the organisation was a perfect fit for Ipswich given it was home to the air force’s largest operational base in RAAF Amberley.
“A lot of serving personnel see the RSL as being for older veterans, particularly from around the Vietnam War era, but it is actually for everyone,” he said.
“We need to encourage younger veterans and serving members to connect with the RSL to not only inject new life into the organisation but also help them get the support they need.”
Young Veterans organises recreation activities such as coffee catch-ups, bushwalking, fishing, camping, motorbike riding and four-wheel driving to foster connections.
“It’s about connecting with like-minded people who have had similar experiences and understand the challenges being faced,” he said.
Cpl Wyatt knows firsthand the benefits a strong support network can bring, himself having battled Post Traumatic Stress Disorder after a deployment to East Timor in 2006.
On the urging of wife Karron he took up the lesser known sport of sled dog racing to help him keep active. That was three years ago and it has been a big help.
“I use it as an escape because when I’m sledding I feel free, it’s just me, the dogs and the bush,” he said.
The notion of service runs deep in Cpl Wyatt’s family – his father served in the air force, his brother was in the navy and his sister is in the army – and he is passionate about doing all he can to help young veterans.
“There is a still a lot of stigma around veterans who suffer mental or physical illness and they do need a lot of help to get reintegrated back into the community,” he said.
“But it’s not just the veterans that suffer, it is family members too who also need an escape.”
Cpl Wyatt said Young Veterans and the RSL welcomed not only ex-servicemen and women but also those still in the Defence Force.
“As soon as you put on the boots and uniform you’re a vet, you don’t have to be ex-serving, you don’t have to have been deployed for active duty,” he said.
Young Veterans Ipswich has gained significant support from community leaders, businesses and the Ipswich RSL sub-branch since its launch.
To keep up with the group, follow it on Facebook here or phone the Ipswich RSL sub-branch on 3281 4159.