We all know that war comes at a great cost, although it is only now that Australia, and the rest of the world are wrapping our heads around the true costs of decades of active duty.
Service men and women are returning home from foreign shores every single month with more than just souvenirs.
It is estimated that more than 8.3 per cent of Australian Defence Force Members will have experienced Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
While science, psychology and technology are making major inroads in mental health every year, this particular disorder continues to pull families and friends apart, break up marriages, and have a major impact on the community in general.
The condition can be so powerful that it can take everything away, rendering even the strongest diggers and veterans helpless, but there is light at the end of the tunnel, and that is something that all Australians need to know about all mental health issues – We can and are fighting back, but everyone needs to be on board and on guard for each other.
There are now hospital wards built solely for the treatment of these disorders, psychologists and psychiatrists working around the clock, pharmaceuticals being studied and tested and an entire industry built around solving these riddles, but sometimes help can come from simpler methods, methods that might quite literally jump up and lick you on the face.
This week I met a returned Quartermaster who had served two tours in East Timor and Afghanistan over a 20 year ADF career, and like many others he had brought home with him an unwanted colleague in PTSD.
But just when this insidious affliction just about had the better of him, he found a friend, a four legged friend that would never leave him to suffer alone, that would always have his back, and so far Zorro the Young Diggers Assistance Dog is making all the difference.
If there was ever a program that was more holistic in benefits than the Young Diggers Dog Squad I haven’t heard of it.
In short, the program takes rescue dogs, uses rehabilitating criminals to train them before giving them to returned service men and women who are suffering from PTSD.
The dogs win, the prisoners and community win, and most importantly these returned service people get some of the help they need and deserve.