Graham Edwards (Australian Army), Land Mines - Part 2
Graham Edwards served with the Australian Army in Vietnam. He was warned that the biggest danger would be landlines. In May 1970, Graham's life was forever changed when he stepped on a 'jumping jack' mine while out on patrol.
Three weeks after the amputation of his legs, Graham was flown home to Australia.
“It was an emotional time, a really confronting time, but it was a very warm time too, to finally come into the embrace of a loved one and my family and to be reunited but never ever the way I ever wanted to be reunited, and I still feel a sense of emotion, when I see homecomings of other troops today and I see them walking off the ship or walking off an aeroplane, and walking into the arms of a loved one and I would have given anything, even today, for that sort of a homecoming.”
The rehabilitation offered to Graham was inadequate, incompetent and humiliating.
“As opposed to the waves of Second World War blokes who came home where there was a range of programs, and educational areas they could put someone into, the blokes coming home from Vietnam came home in dribs and drabs and we were just slotted in where we could. And I think in retrospect too, we were seen as a problem, not as a person. So where do you hide this problem, what do you do with this person to get them out of the way, and to get them off our books so we can eventually discharge them from the army and push them onto someone else's responsibility, that's what it appeared to me.
The last thing I ever wanted was my children ever to grow up thinking that their father was a cripple. So I did throw myself into community activities and they were the sorts of things I think that kept me sane. Although in retrospect, I had times when I got incredibly angry, times when I just had to go off by myself, wishing that things were totally different but just getting on with what I had to do.”
Graham Edwards met every challenge head on. He educated himself, and, driven by veterans' welfare, moved into public affairs and politics, serving with distinction in the Federal Parliament of Australia.
“We all carry passions with us, and of course, the passion of being a Vietnam veteran, who was prepared to carry the fight up to bureaucrats and to governments was something that I always felt that I was doing, not on my own behalf, but on behalf of a whole generation of Vietnam veterans, so, when the issues were there and when the opportunities arose, I went in there to kick heads, because there were heads that needed kicking.