I went into National Service, 3rd intake in 1970 (8th July) in Melbourne, Basic Training Puckapunyal and to Singleton for Infantry Corp Training.
Posted to 9 RAR, Enoggera Brisbane where we trained hard to eventually be on 24 hour standby to go to Vietnam. After Canungra Training we went to live fire training at Shoal Water Bay and further chopper exercises at Tin Can Bay. I was a machine gunner in an infantry section in Charlie Company and during chopper training I managed to fall about 4 metres backwards from the skid of a chopper during a simulated dust off. I had full pack webbing ammunition and an M60 machine gun, all of which landed safely with me as I “glided” to the ground, landing on my back.
Basic first aid was received in the field, however for months I lived with a very sore lower back and buttock, pain and numbness down my left leg and many visits to the RAP and Military Hospital at Greenslopes Brisbane.
We are all aware that the Government changed in 71, Gough Whitlam ceased sending troops and the withdrawal from Vietnam began. We were shattered, all our training, all the infantry brainwashing, all lost. No Vietnam. National Service could now be reduced to 18 months. Woo Hoo!! Lets go. No future here, despite desperate efforts to get us to sign on.
Interviewed for discharge, I raised the issue of my injured back. Only temporary I was told. Discharged January 1972, medically fit.
I had my first back operation (Laminectomy) to stop the pain down my left leg in June 1972. The fight then started with DVA for compensation. I finally received an admission of responsibility from DVA and they deemed my condition to be “Disc Prolapse”. Covered under Worker’s Compensation, DVA covered my medical expenses, but no compensation.
Second back operation, 2005, pain down both legs, Laminectomy, all medical expenses paid by DVA, no compensation.
Third back operation, 2017, pain down right led, numbness, Laminectomy, all medical expenses paid, no compensation.
As I write, I am now waiting on a date for my 4th back operation, this time a spinal fusion. I am unable to walk much further than 100 metres without the need to squat or sit until the pain and numbness in the right led subsides. On a Tuesday (waiting for a date) they will open me from the front and pack the discs, cage, plate and screw at level L3/L4/L5. On the following Friday they will enter from my back, through the 3 previous scar areas and perform the same packing plating and screwing to match Tuesday’s effort. Surgeon expects about a 4 month recovery time.
My attempt to have DVA accept liability for my right hip replacement in 2017 (due to the back condition) was not accepted.
My attempt to have DVA accept liability for the malignant tumour in my right kidney (partially removed in 2017) was not accepted as I did not serve my 2 years in National Service.
I received a White Card in the mail in 2017.
I receive no DVA Pension or compensation.
Sorry for the top heavy amount of information but it is hard to get much perspective on my journey with National Service and DVA without the nitty gritty. Every National Service conscript has their own story to tell and so many have been harshly treated. Most seem to fall through the cracks, particularly when the Acts are so complex and unforgiving to those that do not meet the criteria.
I fully support your endeavours, and look forward to assisting you wherever I can.