A marble with a number attached – little did I know at the time that such a small object would have had such massive ramifications on the rest of my life.
My life changed forever in 1967 when I received a letter informing me that I had been called for National Service and was to present for a medical. It also noted failure to do so without a good reason could incur a 2 year jail term. What a choice!
At the time I had just finished my apprenticeship, I was enjoying life with my mates and fellow car enthusiasts building and modifying high performance cars. I had a girlfriend that I was keen on, playing sport and generally enjoying life. I was still living at home at the time. That all changed when I arrived at Puckapunyal to start my recruit training in July 1967.
We were marched off to our barracks to the tune of constant abuse and shouting from the NCO’s. The training was pretty full on and luckily I was reasonably fit. I coped quite well with that side of the training but still found the shouting and abuse, especially in your face, very confronting. There were a few boys who didn’t cope very well; they went AWOL on several occasions resulting in some being discharged.
During recruit training we had no physical contact with family or friends until marching out parade at the completion of recruit training. During training we were asked to nominate three Corps that we would like to pursue our training in, but most like myself ended up in Infantry regardless of what we had nominated or been employed in, in civilian life.
In October 1967 we were sent to Singleton to continue our Corps training. The training was a lot more intense, learning to use all types of weapons and practising tactics. Although I had done a lot of shooting prior to the Army (mainly foxes and rabbits) this was different. We were being taught to kill our fellow humans; this thought didn’t sit well with me. The shouting and abuse continued, and I was trying to ignore it. We were sent on leave in December at the completion of Corps training and I was then deployed to 5 RAR at Holsworthy in January 1968. Training was ramped up. I had come to terms with the fact that I would more than likely be deployed to Vietnam with 5 RAR the following January. I was missing family and friends and around this time I received a “Dear John” letter. I had to get my head around this and become pro-active if I was going to survive this scenario.
March 1968 saw my company deployed to Canungra as an advance party – when the rest of the battalion came through we would act as “enemy” and assist with their training. During this time one of my Platoon buddies discharged his rifle about six inches from my head. As a consequence I spent a week in hospital and still suffer bad tinnitus to this day. Once jungle training was finished we re-deployed back to Holsworthy with the rest of the Battalion. My role in my company was either as a Platoon Signaller carrying radio equipment or alternatively a Forward Scout. During training on a couple of occasions while being Platoon Signaller my back suffered tweaks dismounting from trucks and APC’s. You don’t complain when you are in the Army so I just continued on as normal. One day I was moving some equipment and I hurt my back severely. As a consequence I spent four weeks in 1 Mil Hospital. Once back at the unit I continued on light duties for a short period and then normal training. The back condition was still causing me grief so as a consequence our Company Commander recommended I be put before a Reclassification Board and was reclassified as unfit Rifleman and would be relocated from the Battalion. The thought of not being able to complete my tour of duty with 5 RAR in Vietnam with the rest of my buddies was starting to affect me. Not knowing at the time, I was starting to experience bouts of depression. To me it was like writing a book and not finishing the last chapter. From 5 RAR I was moved to Central Army Records Office, Melbourne to complete my National Service.
I was placed in an Administrative role doing Reinforcement Postings to Vietnam. Most of the Army personnel I worked with were returned servicemen from Vietnam. Can you imagine the constant harassment and negativity I received for not having served overseas! I had had no experience in admin roles as I was a “hands on trades person” prior to being conscripted. The constant thought of not serving with 5 RAR, the medical downgrading and now being in the situation I was currently in created huge stress. I decided that I would extend my National Service by a year to endeavour to get a posting to Vietnam. I was offered a posting in Saigon which my medical classification would allow but a month prior to being deployed my appendix burst and I found myself in hospital again. Once I was well and back at CARO my time was starting to run short again and it was advised that if I still wanted to go to Vietnam I would have to extend my National Service yet again. The only good thing that came out of the posting to CARO was that I met my wife of 50 years.
The constant disapproval and intimidation of the guys at CARO and the fact that I couldn’t complete my tour with 5 RAR was causing what I now know to be depression and anxiety. My health was continuing to deteriorate so I decided to not sign on again, and to accept discharge. The day I was discharged at Watsonia I had a brief medical, signed some papers, handed in my gear and walked out the front gates, stood on the footpath and thought “what the hell am I going to do now”. I had no job to go back to; my previous employer had no positions available, most of my mates had moved on with their lives and here I was with no job and with minimal resources behind me. There was no support from the Army for my ongoing depression prior to me be being discharged and afterwards. My medical file unbeknown to me (until I received it through freedom of information in recent years) recommended I seek compensation. My health continued to deteriorate and I was diagnosed with severe depression and anxiety. It got to a point that the doctor that I was under decided to place me in hospital for more intense treatment. The second whammy! The hospital I was placed in was the now infamous Newhaven in Kew. The hospital was owned and run by a sect called The Family and run by Anne Hamilton Byrne. These people were illegally adopting children with the help of some of the Psychiatrists who were also members of the sect. My GP and family were not aware of this at the time. The doctors at the hospital were using experimental drugs; i.e. LSD and Psilocybin (magic mushrooms) which I was treated with devastating effects. Had it not been for my now wife and family I may more than likely not be here today.
Depression and anxiety still presents as a problem for me and the thought of not having completed my tour of duty with 5 RAR still bothers me today. They take you off civvy street one day and then attempt to turn you into a robotic killing machine the next, and then throw you back into civvy street without any help or support. It’s not until the last three years with the help of a returned vet in my village where I live that I was able to get a white card and finally get some help for my ongoing health issues. Now 75 years of age a gold card would be of great benefit to me for the little bit of time I may have left. If anyone reads this whose life has been badly affected by stupid Governments sending our young men to unwinnable wars and are suffering any health or other issues as a consequence contact DVA and apply for a white card straight away. The fact that help is available is not advertised.
Cpl Robert Myers
Service Number 3791819