Suicide death sparks new memorial for veterans
When Jasmin Carmel walked into the War Memorial in 2017 for the first time since losing her 27-year-old Iraq and Afghanistan veteran son, she had no official place to recognise him.
Instead, she pulled a photo from her purse of her son Jarrad Brown smiling from a war zone and placed it on a bronze plaque honouring those with physical and psychological wounds.
"Covering the photo in tears I wrote, 'I miss you and love you, time shall not erase the love in our hearts'," Ms Carmel said.
Retiring Australian War Memorial director Brendan Nelson found the picture of the young soldier clinging to the plaque months later and reached out to Ms Carmel.
"Mr Nelson spoke with heart for all our past and present members of the ADF," Ms Carmel said.
"This acknowledgment gave some healing, and true to character a way Jarrad could still continue to hopefully save lives."
With a Roll of Honour recognising 102,800 Australians who have died during war, there is nothing to recognise those who experience ongoing trauma that can result from military service.
Dr Nelson was so moved by Ms Carmel's story that he will be designing a sculpture to be placed in a quiet garden at the War Memorial to "honour families" who have lost a veteran to suicide.
"The 'Sufferings of War' sculpture will evoke and reflect the physical and psychological wounds sustained in military service," Dr Nelson told The Daily Telegraph. "It will pay tribute to veterans who often feel forgotten, whose suffering we see, and that which we don't."
He wants a grassroots fundraising campaign so that regular Australians can contribute.
The NSW RSL has led the way to commit funds.
"The RSL is very supportive of the sculpture and will be donating to the cost of its build," a spokesman said. "We will be giving our members the opportunity to also contribute to its funding."
Ms Carmel said the sculpture will be a "beautiful tribute" to those who have "died from psychological wounds".
"This monument will show so many families that their support and sacrifices are recognised and acknowledged, as sacrifices don't only happen on the battlefields," she said. "Hopefully those who continue to struggle or grieve feel supported by the Australian public and that there is strength and honour in fighting the internal war together."
Mr Brown, who was inspired to join the army after the 9/11 attacks, lost a mate to an IED blast in Afghanistan.
RSL National has backed the Dr Nelson's announcement and a spokesperson said: "The RSL is very supportive of the sculpture and will be donating to the cost of its build."
"We will be giving our members the opportunity to also contribute to its funding."
The Memorial and a network of passionate individuals are now fundraising for this important sculpture. You can make your contribution by going to www.awm.gov.au/donate-suffering-of-war-sculpture. All donations over $2 are tax deductible.
True toll of digger suicides unknown
The Department of Veterans' Affairs has admitted they don't know how many veterans have committed suicide since returning to civilian life.
In Senate Estimates last week, senator Jacqui Lambie grilled DVA secretary Liz Cosson on whether the department is trying to collect data on veteran suicides.
"We commissioned the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare to look at what the suicide numbers were … We should be receiving the report from the institute later this year for the figures from 2001 to 2017," Ms Cosson said.
"But, other than that, we don't keep our own register of suicide, because we rely on the coroner to certify that it is a suicide."
Former NSW police officer Glenn Kolomeitz, who worked in the coroner's court, said it's "impossible" for the numbers of veterans who have suicided to "fall through the cracks".
"Every case referred to the coroner and determined to be suicide is recorded on the National Coronial Information System," Mr Kolomeitz said.
"It's difficult to understand how DVA could not be aware of the exact number of veterans who have taken their own lives if they're relying on coronial findings."
Mr Kolomeitz added: "The only ground upon which the DVA can legitimately say this is if the deceased did not report as being a veteran."
The Daily Telegraph is holding a Save Our Heroes summit next Wednesday to raise awareness about veteran suicide and prevention. Up to 530 veterans and military personnel have died since 2001.
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