For Lincoln Carson ANZAC day is a time to reflect on his 10-years of service, and the incredible impact it’s had on his life - both the good and the bad.
“It’s a very special day, very very special day. You won’t know how special it is until you have been to these places we have been, and done the things that we’ve done,” says the 45-year-old Murri veteran.
A sporty kid who found school challenging, Lincoln followed in the footsteps of his father - a Murri Vietnam veteran who served in 1968-69, who he describes as a "legend of the cavalry."
“I grew up around the military and ... I saw the way the army guys were, they were very tight knit and I was right into my sport like most Murri fellas. That camaraderie that you look for, where you fit in, that sort of thing really stuck with me,” he says.
“It’s like winning a grand final in the NRL, you have to have been there and done it to understand it.”
Lincoln began his training in 1990 in Wagga Wagga, and then was deployed as a machine gunner in Somalia in the 90s.
After a three-year break from the army, he was deployed again for six months to East Timor in October 2000.
“As an infantryman, your main task is to seek out and close in with the enemy, to kill or capture him - that’s the infantry motto. Those skills definitely don’t transcend into civilian life,” he says.
Discharged in 2003, he worked as an outreach worker, helping Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander men with drug and alcohol addiction. But all the while he was struggling with demons of his own.
“So I have never felt comfortable ever since I’ve got out,” he says,“I have been clinically proven to have PTSD from my tour in Somalia.”
Lincoln says options for support were limited when he got out, but he got by with the support of his loving wife, extended family and children. Many of his friends were not so lucky, too proud to seek help - some, driven to complete desperation.
“Their marriages have busted up or they might be alcoholics or drug addicts, which a lot of our guys are unfortunately, they find the worst end of it and usually die at their own hands.”
Now on an army pension, unable to work Lincoln says he regrets nothing and if given the option, he would still be serving.
“I would do it all again ... if the army come knocking tomorrow and said Lincoln we want you to go to Afghanistan I would go. In a heartbeat.”
‘No room for racism’
Racism was never a factor during Lincoln’s service, however the weight of his family history and the dark racial history of his country was a strong motivator.
“It transcends racial boundaries, genders, and religious views. There is absolutely no room for it… as long as everyone is a good soldier, that’s your job. They didn’t care what colour you were, what camouflage you wore is what mattered.”
His grandmother grew up in Hervey Bay, a coastal city in southern Queensland.
"She sat in the back of cinemas, she sat in the back of buses, they were all part of the movement that got us to where we are today, and it would be remiss of me not to have used that opportunity,” he says.
“Each Indigenous person, we are walking talking billboards for our communities aren’t we? So I chose the option to go to the defence force, and sort of spread the word that we are quite capable of fighting and being prominent good members of our community.”
He hopes that by speaking about his service he can inspire young Indigenous kids to serve as well.
“It‘s always good for the Indigenous kids to see us, there’s a lot of reliance for our Indigenous kids to see our sporting stars.”
"For them to see just common guys like myself...it gives them realistic goals."