Looking at family photos of Bonny, Andrew and Kamaia, you couldn’t even begin to imagine what pain each of these three people are carrying with them, because their pain is psychological, not something you can easily see with your eyes. A mother and daughter by blood and a step-dad, who soon became a “real” dad. Understanding the instant bond Kamaia and Andrew had is so special and strong, they had an uncanny likeness to each other, to the extent that everyone thought Bonny was the step-parent.
“On Kamaia‘s third birthday Andrew moved into my home, right off the bat they had an almost instant bond, which only strengthened over time. They were fishing buddies. She loved to hang out with him when he was doing anything and to learn from him,” – Bonny
Andrew “Mung” Perry was a proud man and served for eight months in Afghanistan with the Royal Australia Air Force. Details of his deployments were not something Andrew shared openly with Bonny and Kamaia, so it was near impossible to understand the extent to which his job would change the man they knew and loved when he returned home for good.
After Afghanistan, the Andrew they knew and loved returned home, but he was not quite himself.
“Dad had such a presence in the house, he was a practical joker and made me laugh so much. When he was gone it was quiet. I longed for him to come back home to us and crack jokes and make both mum and me laugh again. While he was away there was a constant fear that maybe tomorrow he wouldn’t Skype or call us, we lived for those chats.” – Kamaia
“When Andrew returned home, apart from being so thin, and seeming to have aged so much, he lost his spark for life. He was so serious, hypervigilant, and quiet,”
Your loved one returning home after being away should be a happy and joyous time, but having her dad home was a catch 22 for Kamaia. Deep down she wanted to hold her dad so tight and hug him and never let him go. But her reality was very different.
“There was a sense of having to physically approach him slowly, and announce yourself with distance, not to set him off. Some days it was a real challenge reading his body language, to see what mood he was in.”
Kamaia thought herself as a mother figure to her father, when she should have been his little girl, without a worry in the world.
“I wanted to wrap him up in blankets, chuck on a movie and keep him safe. I wanted to give him a big cuddle in a motherly way, and tell him that the world is a horrible place sometimes but tomorrow can always be better.”
Being the child of a Defence Force veteran can, at times, be a confusing and confronting relationship. At times children need to grow up faster than they should and deal with situations that no adult should ever be confronted with.