Operation CARE Moves into New Phase
Operation CARE, which has been assisting Australia’s troops wounded in Afghanistan since 2006, has added a new service to complement the original program.
Operation CARE has assisted more than 70 wounded soldiers repatriated back to Australia as a result of their injuries, but is now offering R&R to contemporary veterans being assisted by NSW RSL Defence CARE and Soldier On and members of the 2nd Commando Unit at Holsworthy.
C-ex Coffs Club, Blacktown Workers Club and Merrylands RSL Club have donated more than 20 weeks of accommodation in club owned facilities at Urunga, Fingal Bay, Sussex Inlet and Forster to be utilised by contemporary veterans suffering from a variety of issues following the more than 10 year war and general service.
According to one of the R&R recipients, the new program is providing worthwhile benefits:
"My family and I would like to thank you for the holiday break to Fingal Bay. All the stars aligned, making for a perfect relaxing holiday, minimal folk due to being out of season, friendly staff at the holiday centre and the weather was perfect.
Walks on the beach first thing every morning and in the evening kept the mind calm and led to me having the best sleeps in a long time, without the use of meds.
Just being able to sit on the waterfront with million dollar views and be able to have a coffee without constantly scanning for a perceived threat, was surreal and a rare taste of normality that I totally had forgotten about.
I could go on and on about how beneficial this break was for my wife, kid and me. Many many thanks to you both and your teams."
Under the new R&R Program nominations are provided to Operation CARE by either RSL Defence Care, Soldier On or 2 Commando for veterans or serving personnel requiring an urgent break with their family to assist their recovery. Once approved by its Board, Operation CARE provides accommodation for up to a week’s holiday at one of the nominated accommodation complexes, plus an expenses allowance for meals and petrol depending on the size of the family unit. The family is expected to make their own way to the accommodation as they generally come from around the Sydney or Canberra region. This same program is available to Defence service personnel to also nominate those in urgent need of assistance.
Until early in 2014, the scheme has provided up to one week’s ‘Rest and Recuperation’ at sites throughout the country for selected Defence personnel and their immediate family, where the Defence member has been repatriated to Australia as a consequence of wounds received in combat operations. Operation CARE also reinforces the importance of the relationship between the Australian Defence Force, the RSL community and the RSL and Services Clubs.
As one recipient wrote on return from Operation CARE:
"We feel so privileged that the RSL offers such a program for wounded soldiers. It feels great that the Australian Way, to help others and acknowledge sacrifice, is still alive, when it seems the world is in turmoil with changing ideals and values.
I am extremely grateful that the RSL has offered me this experience for a respite from my troubling times of late with my rehabilitation and coming to terms with my injuries. I can definitely say that I have not had many acts of recognition for the sacrifice we soldiers make, in order to keep others safe at night. This experience has definitely shown me that there are those that still care and respect the soldier."
And the wife of one recipient had this to say about Operation CARE:
"Since the incident that saw my husband wounded in Afghanistan we have not come across many places that use common sense or compassion when dealing with us. It is refreshing to not have to jump through hoops and miles of red tape and for this we are extremely grateful.
Our Easter family getaway was exactly what our family needed after the trauma of the injury and the stress of the recovery. It helped us reconnect as a family and recharge our batteries for the fight that is still ahead of us. It is so wonderful what the RSL is doing and I hope that all soldiers injured in combat operations have a chance to utilise the service that Operation CARE provides."
The RSL & Services Clubs Association, the Returned & Services League of Australia and the Department of Defence joined forces in 2006 to establish Operation CARE.
The project has been made possible by member clubs of the RSL & Services Clubs Association in New South Wales which along with the State Branch of the RSL and local RSL Sub-Branches have generously donated almost $250,000 to fund the scheme which is in keeping with the clubs’ objectives to support our ANZAC traditions. Donations to the project have also come from Tooheys Brewery ($10,000). The NSW State Branch of the RSL, through its United Returned Soldiers’ Fund, has donated more than $150,000 via its ANZAC Day badge appeals over the past four years.
The project is overseen by the Operation CARE Benevolent Fund with a three person Board including Chairman of the RSL & Services Clubs Association, Bryn Miller, Vice-Chairman; Andrew Bell, General Manager of Wagga RSL Club and Rob Smith, General Manager of Twin Towns Services Club.
Thomson Geer Lawyers provided specialist legal assistance in establishing the program. The firm, which has a strong relationship with the club industry and acts for many large clubs and associations, provided this valued service pro-bono.
In launching the program in October 2006, Australian Defence Force Chief, Air Chief Marshall Angus Houston, said the program would improve morale and retention of personnel and strengthen the relationship between veterans and current personnel.
“We hold our forebears in great regard and for them to be doing something like this for the young people who go out there today and serve is a huge step in the right direction and certainly adds to morale and hopefully will be another thing that supports the need to retain people in the ADF”, he said.
Association Chief Executive, Garrie Gibson said that in a best case scenario it was hoped that Operation CARE was never required, but unfortunately the vagaries of war and other deployments are such that people do get wounded and need to be repatriated back to Australia.
“This program provides these personnel with some respite so they can go away with the family and reflect on what has occurred prior to going back into active service."
"Operation Care" continues to need YOUR contributions to keep delivering for our Veterans and their families.
Please make a donation TODAY by cheque,
made out to Operation Care Benevolent Fund
and mailed to Suite 1103, 109 Pitt Street, SYDNEY NSW 2000.
Donations to the Fund by Clubs is eligible expenditure for NSW clubs under the ClubGrants guidelines for recipients resident in NSW. Donations to the project by the public can be made by cheque and made out to Operation Care Benevolent Fund and mailed to Suite 1103, 109 Pitt Street, SYDNEY NSW 2000.
Inquiries for donations can be directed to Association CEO, Garrie Gibson on 02 9233 2624.