Most people go on holiday to lounge about in the sun, but Dwayne Cashman, of Wynyard, took a 10-day tour in East Timor to see how a country had recovered and transformed from its war-torn past.
Serving two tours in the country in support against the anti-independence militia in the late 90s, Mr Cashman described a country that was facing violence, lawlessness and general terror.
“A lot of the communities and school are back up running back to normal and kids are getting about in uniforms with a smile on their face,” Mr Cashman said.
Supported by the Queensland RSL, the group were transported around to areas they had served in where they were received with songs, parades and presents before mingling with the community.
“It was good rehabilitation,” Mr Cashman said.
Testament to the healing nature of the visit, many of Mr Cashman’s travel companions came home with a view to go back again.
“A lot of them want to go back over and see if they can help their soldiers and get out to other parts of East Timor where there are more Veterans,” he said.
Received warmly, Mr Cashman said the gratitude went both ways.
“In token we wanted to thank them for what they have done in their own country and for themselves,” he said.
With post traumatic stress disorder rife in the ex-servicemen community, visits to war zones in times of peace can help by offering a sense of closure.
“We got to see it with full eyes. We hadn’t seen it in peace time not like it is now. We were overwhelmed,” he said.
While the travelling schedule was tight, the group took every opportunity to mingle with the local kids, play sport and share a few laughs with mates.
Having acted as a personal guard to former president Jose Ramos Horta’s home, Mr Cashman and his fellow travellers were invited in to his residence once again and treated with drinks and food, and a pat of the resident deer, as a thank you.
Article first appeared in The Advocate (Tasmania). Written by Baz Ruddick. See full story here.