By Chloe Dean
My name is Chloe and I am honoured to be a recipient of the 2020 AVCAT John Gough Legacy Scholarship. Each ANZAC Day, I march with my Dad and proudly hold his hand.
Each generation of my family has served – including my great grandparents, fondly known as Grandfather and Lil Pop, whom both served for the Army in Papua New Guinea during WWII. It was not until 2019 – 75 years after his service – that Lil Pop was finally, formally recognised for his service and received his medals, at the ripe young age of 99, by the Warrant Officer of the Army.
In 2003, Dad was deployed to the Middle East Area of Operation (MEAO) on Operation Catalyst. In 2009 and 2010, he was once again deployed to the MEAO and then sent to Afghanistan, on Operation Slipper.
My Dad was serving in Operation Slipper when Grandfather died. Dad was unable to travel back to Australia for his funeral. So, at the age of nine, I read my father’s speech for his own grandfather’s funeral. I didn’t know it at the time, but it was this moment that solidified in my heart that I would always be there to look after my Dad.
In August 2012, my Dad was sent to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) on Operation Slipper, before being sent back to Afghanistan. I watched from the sidelines as each time he came home, he struggled with PTSD, depression and other mental health disorders, coupled with extreme physical injuries. Over the years, his mental health steeply declined. It was in 2018 that he was finally medically discharged from the RAAF, and met his service dog, Bailey.
In 2016, my mother had an unfortunate accident at work, which ultimately resulted in an extreme chronic condition that causes excruciating facial pain, known as trigeminal neuralgia. There is no cure. In 2019, she underwent experimental deep brain surgery, which, unfortunately, did not help her condition – rather, it has caused permanent tremor in one side of her body, memory loss, hearing loss and vision loss.
If you know me at all, then you know that my family is the single most important thing in my life. Throughout high school, I acted as the carer for my parents. Right now, I am currently in my second year at The Australian National University completing a Bachelor of Science, with a focus in developing drugs to help overcome or manage extreme chronic pain.
AVCAT gave me the financial and emotional support I couldn’t have even dreamt of. I am able to work from afar, developing drugs that may help my parents – or people like my parents. It is because of AVCAT that I am able to be a carer from afar, and each April, I am able to travel back home rural NSW, march with my Dad, and proudly hold his hand.