Australia's first recovery centre to help returning soldiers and their families deal with the trauma of war will open in Brisbane today.
Up to 65,000 Australian military personnel have been deployed in peacekeeping missions and combat operations since 1999.
Many have returned with physical disabilities, but many more - an estimated 20 per cent - have returned with mental scars.
The 'Mates 4 Mates' centre, to be opened by General Peter Cosgrove today, will offer psychological counselling, gyms and adventure programs to help a new generation of veterans deal with the trauma of war.
The centre is being opened by the Queensland RSL, and there plans to open similar facilities in South Australia, Darwin and Sydney.
The RSL estimates there are 1,200 veterans returning to Australia every year who will need some form of psychological support.
Twenty-six-year-old Dwayne Anderson is just one.
He saw two of his mates blown away by an improvised explosive device in Afghanistan.
"I was only four metres away from where the actual blast was," he told AM.
"Obviously when the blast happens you don't really see too much. It just goes pretty much straight from daytime to night time.
"It's the moment afterwards when you're out and you see everything, see the aftermath. It was pretty confronting, pretty full on.
"The whole family noticed that there was a big change in my personality and it took a couple of months after hearing this that I sort of turned around and went 'right, now I've got to really start figuring out how I'm going to progress without affecting everyone around me'."
For Mr Anderson, and thousands of others like him, the really hard battles - the personal battles - only start once their tours of duty are over.
Often the recovery process has an impact not just on the soldiers, but also their families and friends.
"We've all been brought up in this machismo Australia where you don't tell people you've got a problem and real men don't cry," RSL Queensland chief executive officer Chris McHugh said.
"But really, there are some real problems."
The Mates 4 Mates program will provide practical support to wounded, ill and injured personnel, both serving and former members of the armed forces, as well as their families.
The first one opens today in Brisbane's northern suburbs - just across the road from the famous Breakfast Creek Hotel - once a favourite watering hole for a previous generation of veterans from Vietnam.
Even the RSL admits this new generation of veterans has thrown up new challenges.
"The image of the RSL to a lot of people, even though it's wrong, is clubs, beer, meals and pokie machines," he said.
"Generation X,Y and whatever it's called next, they've been brought up in a different era. They're looking for challenges.
"They want to challenge themselves and they want to see how it relates to them."
Latest Politics Articles