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.

“I saw things no kid should see. Actually, no one should see what I saw – like the time I saved my dad. I made it my job to take away items I thought dad could harm himself with.”

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Panel 1

In December 2015, Andrew took his life.

Facing Facts

Suicide amongst serving and ex-serving Australian Defence Force (ADF) personnel is steadily increasing, just one death by suicide is one too many. For some ADF personnel the torment and emotional stress that goes on in their minds, would be hard for anyone to completely understand. The sad reality is that their way out of their own personal hell is to not be in this world.

The suicide rate among veterans aged 18 to 24 is double that of their peers in the general community. Among those aged 25 to 29 it is one-and-a-half times the national average for their age. Those figures, from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (November 2016, are based on a tally of 292 certified suicides between 2001 and 2014. It is worth considering since 61 ADF members have been killed on deployment since 2001.

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What Mates4Mates does to help combat the facts…

We exist to support current and ex-serving Australian Defence Force members, and their families, who are wounded, injured, or ill as a result of their service.

Our reach is national with Family Recovery Centres in Brisbane, Townsville and Hobart, and outreach services in regional areas.

We have the most progressive, integrated support programs in the country, which help rebuild and save lives.

We also raise public awareness around the challenges many returned ADF members face after transitioning back into civilian life.

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Reaching out for support

Asking for support or admitting you need support can be hard. It’s even harder for a child to know where to turn to for help.

“I found that the times where I thought I was great and happy and on top of things was when I needed a counsellor the most because I was tricking my own body and mind to try and stay strong for my family.
The simple truth is: when dad came home, he didn’t get the professional help he needed.
That’s not to say there aren’t enough counselling services for veterans. But if my dad is anything to go by, then veterans aren’t the kind of guys to sign up for counselling until it’s too late.” 
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Words to Andrew

Bonnie letter2

– Bonny

Kamaia letter

– KamaiaTaxAppeal_DonateSML_1705