Concealing the Truth

Last Sunday Night there was a story about John Cantwell an ex-Army Major General who bravely revealed the personal trauma of war. He chose a commercial and popular current affairs program to share a story many veterans battle with in silence.

Having been an interviewer of hundreds of veterans from wars dating back from WWII to Afghanistan I was keen to see how deep Cantwell would go. I was also keen to hear how journalist, Mark Ferguson would handle it.

This is tough territory to explore for both the interviewer and interviewee. I was impressed with Cantwell who was honest and confronting. He talked about the trauma of war in very frank terms. From the human carnage he witnessed to the pressures of command that often saw men sacrificed under his watch. His PTSD is real and often experienced by a lot of Australian Defense Force personnel, even in peacekeeping missions.

Chris Bath introduced the story as sending shock waves through Canberra, but really they already know. They know personnel are coming back broken and PTSD is now a factor in many lives.

From my work at the Australians At War Film Archive I could see it was the Veterans of Vietnam who made the Australian Defense Force wake up to the reality of the trauma of war.  Even in Cantwell’s story he mentioned it was his boss, a Vietnam Vet who brought his PTSD to light.

Personally I did not discover anything new from this story, and that is because of the work I had done. But I know there were hundreds, if not thousands of Australians who watched that interview and learnt something about the sacrifice our ADF personnel make.

Pertinent to Cantwell’s story is the fact he lost 10 men in 3 months under his command in Afghanistan. It was raw and heart wrenching to watch him see the names of those men at the Australian War Memorial. Then came the obligatory montage of their faces – sons, husbands, brothers, uncles and cousins. It brought a tear even to my eye.

But then came the violation.

Cross back to the studio and Bath announces Cantwell’s book detailing his personal account of life after service, Exit Wounds. Oh, so what I just watched then was a book promo. Thanks Sunday Night for declaring this.

Obviously the journalist code of ethics does not apply here.


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