NUMURKAH ex-serviceman Michael Brown is living proof of the good that the proceeds from RSL poppies sold in Numurkah do.
Put simply, Michael says they saved his life.
Michael suffers from post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), severe depression and a range of physical issues as a result of his service with the Australian army in the 1980s.
A couple of years ago, the effects of his mental and physical health problems were so severe that Michael didn’t want to be around any more.
“Life was literally unbearable,” he said.
“The support I’ve received through the RSL has made life worth something to me again.”
Though Michael had been a long time member of the RSL, and had sometimes attended the local sub-branch for a beer since moving to Numurkah five years ago, he had never accessed their support services until his wife Rebecca reached out to them for help when things reached crisis point around two years ago.
“I didn’t really know what type of support they offered, but I knew they offered it. I just couldn’t bring myself to ask for help from anyone.
“I’m so grateful to my wife for making that call, because it’s changed everything.”
With Michael unable to work, money is tight, and through the proceeds of the local poppy appeal, the RSL has been able to help the family with home repairs and replacement of essential appliances.
“As much as I’d like to work, I wouldn’t be a reliable employee. My PTSD and depression make it hard for me to leave the house, and I spent most of last year in hospital.
“I have regular medical appointments now, so holding down a job just isn’t an option for me at the moment,” he said.
“As much as the financial help the RSL has given us has relieved that burden, and has been very gratefully and humbly received, that’s just a small part of what they’ve done for me.
“To have that relationship with them restored is priceless.
“They’ve made sure that I’m not left out on my own, and I know the local guys are only ever a phone call away.
“They’ve put me in touch with the Department of Veterans Affairs, who have helped me get help with my mental health. I attend the program for veterans and serving members at Austin Health’s Psychological Trauma Recovery Service regularly, as well as a psychologist in Shepparton.
“The support I’ve gotten has helped me find a purpose again. As much as life is still pretty difficult at the moment, it’s good now too.
“I’ve been able to reconnect with simple things that mean so much to me like camping and kayaking with my wife and sons.
“I’ve got a long way to go, and life is still stressful, but there is joy in it now too.”
Proceeds from local poppy appeal sales are split 50/50 between the local sub-branch and RSL Victoria, with any of the local portion not spent on members’ welfare required to be handed over to RSL Victoria at the end of the 12 month period.
Numurkah RSL sub-branch secretary Gerard Watson said the local members are grateful to be able to help veterans like Michael through the poppy appeal proceeds, but they need more help.
“Locals have always been very generous towards the appeal, and we’re happy with sales, but we need more volunteers to help man the tables to sell them,” he said.
“Our members are getting old and have a lot of medical appointments and just aren’t capable of doing it on their own any more.
“You don’t need to be a member of the RSL to help sell them; anybody who is keen to support our veterans and can spare an hour or two in the lead up to Remembrance Day is most welcome.”
Michael told the Leader that knowing that people support the poppy appeal, does veterans like himself a lot of good beyond just the financial contribution.
“It’s an emotional feeling knowing that people care about what you did, and that the community is supportive of the cause and prepared to give their time and money to it,” he said.
“It makes you feel that you can be proud of having served.”
Anybody who can spare a couple of hours to help with this year’s appeal should contact Numurkah RSL appeals officer David Geddes on 0417 505 936.