War veterans walk Kokoda Track to deal with demons

A TOOWOOMBA man is helping veterans scarred by war to get past their demons.

Glenn Azar is working with charity Mates4Mates to help Australian Defence Force soldiers and veterans, many of whom have post traumatic stress disorders.

Mr Azar guides groups that walk the Kokoda Track, giving soldiers the chance to reconnect with Australia's military history and at the same time work through personal problems.

Soldier Nathan Whittington, who is an amputee, is comforted by a fellow soldier on the Kokoda Track.
Soldier Nathan Whittington, who is an amputee, is comforted by a fellow soldier on the Kokoda Track.

The latest trip was from October 16 to 25 this year and included veterans who served in Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia, Rwanda, East Timor and Vietnam.

One young soldier Nathan Whittington is an amputee while others are in their 70s. All bravely completed the walk.

The trip is designed to be therapeutic and a psychologist is on hand to help.

Every night two or three people get up and tell their stories.

Mr Azar said it was about starting conversations.

"Often when people go out of the military they fall through the cracks.

"We want them to know there's someone there for them.

"It allows them to mix with people who have been through it and have experiences, but everyone is at a different stage.

"One veteran told me it was the first time since Afghanistan he had left his demons behind."

A group of veterans standing in front of a bomber as they prepare to start walking the Kokoda Track.
A group of veterans standing in front of a bomber as they prepare to start walking the Kokoda Track.

Mr Azar, a veteran himself who spent 17 years in the army and was one of the first to arrive in East Timor during the conflict, said many breakthroughs were made on the walk.

"Out on the track there is no access to mobile phones or computers, there's nothing else in their heads.

"When they get back Mates4Mates helps them to keep making progress."

A large percentage of veterans have settled in south-east Queensland.

Many who suffer from PTSD choose Toowoomba because it is quieter than the large cities.

More on Mates4Mates

Mates4Mates provides rehabilitation programs for current and ex-serving Australian Defence Force members who are wounded, injured or ill. It  also supports the families of those people.



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