Sapper David Wood while on his second tour of Afghanistan in 2012.
Sapper David Wood while on his second tour of Afghanistan in 2012. Contributed

David Wood: A digger's life cut short by trauma of service

PERHAPS like most men, David Wood was more sensitive than he would ever let on.

And very brave too; always keen to protect those around him.

His father Michael remembered on the morning of September 11, 2001 - which happens to be the birthday of David's brother Patrick - David movingly declared 'you bastards have ruined my brother's birthday'.

After enlisting in the Army when he was 17, David trained as a frontline engineer, or sapper, and later gained combat medic qualifications after his first tour of Afghanistan in 2010.

It was during his second tour in 2012 when a multitude of traumatic events unfolded that triggered the condition that ultimately pushed him to take his own life.

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David had blamed himself for being unable to save the life of a seven-year-old Afghan girl, injured when a rock wall collapsed on her.

The girl was the same age as David's younger sister.

"That affected him greatly. I spoke to him that night, and he was different," his father said.

Another incident was when David accidentally stepped on the trigger of a faulty IED.

"In his eyes, he may have well killed everyone around him; it was just luck that it never went off," Mr Wood said.

Sapper David Wood while on his second tour of Afghanistan in 2012. Photo Contributed
Sapper David Wood while on his second tour of Afghanistan in 2012. Photo Contributed Contributed

David blamed himself - but his unit didn't see it that way - they encouraged him back "out in front".

Then two weeks after David's unit returned, three Australian diggers from the unit which replaced David's were shot in the back by an Afghan interpreter.

Mr Wood said David and his fellow Diggers believed the situation wouldn't have happened if his unit were there.

They believed the argument which allegedly caused the interpreter to open fire out of the blue would have been avoided.

"Dave was really angry because their tour was cut short by a fortnight and they would have been there."

DEPARTMENT FAILED TO HELP

About three months after returning from Afghanistan, David was hospitalised following an initial attempt to take his own life.

Mr Wood said he was angry with the Department of Veterans' Affairs over their management of David's medical situation, partly because they did not inform the family about his suicide attempt before releasing him into their care.

"It's hard to take your head out of a war zone, and they didn't help that much.

"We knew he wasn't well, but we had no idea he'd already attempted to take his own life."

Mr Wood said it was only in the last two weeks of his life they realised there was a major issue, but David, just 22-years-old, was gone before they could get a handle on it.

Mr Wood said his son didn't get the help he so desperately needed.

Mr Wood said the stigma of the condition and its "immediate" impact on their career stopped many soldiers from seeking help.

"If they say I'm feeling this way, it's the end of their career," he said.

He said now hoped the acknowledgement of PTSD victims on the honour roll would help improve recognition and better treatment of the condition.


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