Post Traumatic Healing & Growth – a Matter of life or Death

From the experiences of Chaplain Gary Stone

Synopsis: If we can better understand health and disease, and choose to be proactive in a holistic health programme, we can counter distress, develop resilience, and maintain wellbeing in the longer term. The experiences of life are great teachers Over many years as a Chaplain to the Royal Australian Regiment Association and as a member of the RSL , I have received too many notices of the death of veterans, dying in their 40s , 50s and 60s, mostly from cancer , but dying well before the age that they should have the lived to.

Like my other brethren in the veterans community, the early passing of these friends saddened me but I did not consider that much could be done about it. Additionally many of these men had struggled for many years with a plethora of other health issues stemming from their military service. (more…)

President’s Report Nov 2015

Written by President: Gary Stone

A little over a year ago at a Man Alive breakfast I shared the complex health challenges that faced many veterans and their families.

I explained that there had been neither formal church response to the situation nor any church funding likely, but that I was committed to introducing some spiritual response to the situation. Geoff Fry spoke up and said that he thought some people from the St Johns Wood The Gap parish would like to support a response. Rob Vicary added that some governance structures could be put in place along the lines of a tax-deductible charitable organisation and several others said they would like to make financial donations to this work.

From these humble beginnings we now have in place a tax deductible public benevolent institution that has over the past year provided educational awareness on veteran’s health to thousands of veterans and their families, as well as an individual pastoral care to hundreds with specific needs. We have developed a truly holistic team of members that include medical doctors, a psychologist, an exercise physiologist, two Catholic deacons, a reflexologist and remedial masseur, as well as a range of prayer supporters, financial supporters and people of goodwill who have helped out according to their gifts.

In parallel lines of activity, we have been delivering pastoral support to people in need, we have been engaging with complementary government and non-government organisations in this space, and we have been building an organisation that can support this activity.

The most demanding activity emotionally is the provision of spiritually based pastoral care to individuals with complex body mind and soul disability. Whilst I have been able to give some time to do this work, and VCA member Deacon Peter Devenish Meares is also engaged in this part time , we have barely scratched the surface in this area and will only be able to give this appropriate attention once we have more professionally trained staff employed to undertake this work.  We hope to employ part time, VCA member Caitlin Proctor, in this area in the coming months. VCA member John Jordan is part way through his studies in psychology, and VCA member Paul Randall will be commencing a Certificate Four in Pastoral Care in 2016 with a view to working in this area in the future. I’m also conscious of the individual pastoral gestures of love and support that all our members have provided on occasion to people in need. Thank you to all who have helped another.

The greatest exponential benefit that we can provide has come through the promotion of our holistic health concepts to many groups and individuals in the veteran’s community.  There have been many continuing requests for presentations in this area and many thousands of people have heard the good news that we are preaching. Our website is now up and running thanks to Sandra Hammond and Rob Vicary , and this will provide an online opportunity for people to draw other educational information for their benefit.

We have had numerous invitations to participate in forums with other ex-service organisations where we are accepted as a complimentary supporting organisation in the veterans’ health space. No one else is providing the specific support we are, and equally we must realise that we are but one of many niche supporting activities in the complex and diverse framework providing support to veterans and their families.  It is worth noting that whilst there seem to be a range of organisations in the veteran’s space , our combined activities are still only reaching a very small percentage of the 100,000 veterans, as well as their family members, in our region . Moreover most support organisations are almost exclusively based in the central Brisbane Area with people in rural and regional areas getting very little proximate support to them. Following Jesus direction that we should seek out and save the lost sheep we need to be prepared to travel more and go to those remotely located.

Our organisational symbol is the Good Samaritan image of Simpson and the wounded soldier on the donkey , and just some of us have played the role of Simpson, assisting wounded soldiers, some of us have done the all too important work of the donkey in the administration support area , and I particularly want to thank our committee , but especially Geoff Fry and RobRSLCare Vicary for all the work that they’ve done to support this mission.

I am particularly mindful to and knowledge acknowledge and thank our major financial sponsors who have been RSL Care Queensland, the Knights of the Southern Cross, RSL Queensland and  the Samford RSL sub-branch. Additionally we must thank individual donors who have been generous but wish to remain anonymous.
One of the challenges that we have placed and will continue to struggle with is to remain realistic about the capacity we have to work in the veteran support area. Every day there are opportunities to be doing additional things to help those in need, but in doing so we can end up losing sight of the particular and unique vision and objectives we have, which are in providinKnights-of-the-southern-Crossg spiritually based pastoral care and education and in holistic health practices. I am very conscious that people will continue to suggest additional things that we could do, but as President I am mindful that our generous donors have committed their funds to supporting the specific activities we agreed on, in our formation documents and in getting status as a charitable organisation, and so please understand me when I keep calling us back to our agreed vision objectives and strategies.

Having a got ourselves established I would hope that the coming year will be one of consolidation and continuing to realise our foundational vision and objectives in raising the level of health in the veteran community.


Finally I think it important to make the point that this was and will continue to be an essentially spiritual activity, an activity led by the Holy Spirit and an activity carried out by individuals that are filled with the power of the Holy Spirit. We must thank God for the opportunity to serve him in this way and to continue to seek blessing in everything we do.


I am grateful for the privilege of service to this organisation as its President and then particularly mindful that this is and will continue to be a team effort. I look forward to continuing to work with you in the future.

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God’s words for Post Traumatic Healing and Growth

Through my study and own life experiences, I have found the following passages to be of comfort to me. I hope that they bring you comfort and reassurance as well.



  • Be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to determine what God’s will is – his good pleasing and perfect will.  Romans 12:2
  • God has given us a spirit of power and of love and of a sound mind. 2 Tim 1:7
  • Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts and control your thoughts.   Colossians 3:15
  • Be still and know that I am God . Psalm 46:10


Aug 2015: Update on Veterans Support

Peace be with you! So many good developments have occurred in recent months. I hope that this news will bring joy to your hearts and satisfaction knowing that we are improving the lives of veterans, their families and those who support them. Progress is being made in all our objective areas. Our membership base is increasing. Our sphere of influence is growing across the range of provider groups in the Veterans. But best of all Veterans and their family members are being encouraged, growing in hope and empowered to take steps to improve their lives though education in holistic health. Despite invitations to broaden our work into other areas of community need I have been careful to focus my time on our target objective areas. (more…)

Feb 2015: Update on Veterans Support

Activity has continued on a number of fronts. Direct pastoral care to veterans and their families has continued on a daily basis. I have been receiving more requests from family members across Australia, to help them understand what’s happening in their loved ones. Realistically there are more calls for support than I can follow through on, but I can but offer a listening ear, some spiritual triage, affirmation, and recommend them to a support person in their own area. This is very well received. Visiting vets in hospital has continued, and I have done several funerals. I have also initiated visits to RSL and other Veteran sub-branches on the Gold Coast, starting to get to know the communities here. (more…)

Nov 2014: Update on Veterans Support

From our Veterans Care Association formation meeting on 29 June we have been operating on a number of fronts simultaneously. Direct pastoral care to veterans has been a task Gary has engaged in, visiting vets in hospital, mainly with cancer, but also meeting them in their gathering events at RSL subbranches, Corps Associations, and conducting memorial services.

Most Veterans present with multiple, body mind and soul wounds, and Gary’s explanation of the need for holistic health to promote wellbeing gets many heads nodding.

Engagement with those supporting vets has involved meetings with the Qld commissioner for DVA, Alison Stanley, State Pres RSL Terry Meehan , all Mates4mates staff, and Premier Campbell Newman, Military Brotherhood and with various RAR associations.

The concept of holistic care is known to them but getting spiritual/pastoral inputs into current programs will take time as some practitioners/service providers will not move out of their space (or reject the notion of the value of the spiritual). (more…)

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