By Rachel Crook
My family has a long history of service. My great-grandfather, grandfather and father all served in Defence. My great grandfather Reg joined the Navy on the 20th June 1944 for the duration of the war. He falsified his birth record so that he could join before he was 18 and after he completed his training at Trinity Beach in Cairns he was deployed to the Pacific Islands in March/ April of 1945. He was involved in the ‘Operation Oboe’ series of landings and returned to Australia at the end of WW2 in late 1945.
My grandfather, Barry, joined the Army on the 15th May 1967. He was deployed to Vietnam in November 1969 to 1 Field Squadron Workshop at Nui Dat and returned home in 1970.
My father, Steve, joined the Navy in 1983 and served for 10 years as a RADAR Plot sailor and specialised as an Anti-Submarine Aircraft Controller. He joined just before his 16th birthday and deployed to the first gulf war on HMAS Adelaide in 1990 as part of Operation Damask.
With a family history like this, I felt pressure growing up to follow those before me and join defence as soon as I was old enough. When I turned 16, I knew that I was passionate about helping others, but I wasn’t ready to leave school and home. I worked hard at school, and after finishing Year 12 in 2014 looked for a different pathway into serving my community.
My exposure to the challenges veterans can face after returning home helped me decide to work in the healthcare industry to address these issues. More needs to be done for our veterans. I am determined to help in any way I can and the best way I can think of, for me, is to become a doctor.
In 2015 I relocated from a small farm in rural Victoria to the ‘big city’ of Adelaide, seven hours away from my family and support networks, to pursue a Bachelor of Clinical Sciences/ Doctor of Medicine at Flinders University.
I found the transition to university really challenging. It was hard trying to establish myself financially, and socially, in a new area while juggling a challenging academic load. In 2017 I was awarded the AVCAT Vietnam Veterans’ Association of Australia SA (VVAA SA) Daryl Knapp Memorial Scholarship. It was an incredible honour, and greatly assisted me in all these areas.
When some of the financial burden lifted, I was able to spend more time building a support network, which in turn assisted in my studies. The AVCAT Vietnam Veterans’ Association of Australia SA (VVAA SA) Daryl Knapp Memorial Scholarship helped me purchase university equipment such as textbooks, and medical equipment such as a stethoscope.
In 2020, with the support of AVCAT, I relocated to Mt Gambier for a one-year rural placement. Working in the healthcare system in a regional community in the middle of a pandemic has been an extraordinary experience. It has only reiterated the importance of looking after Australians’ mental health, as well as physical health.
I am looking forward to completing my final year of my studies in 2021, and being able to serve defence and veteran groups by looking after the physical health, mental health, and emotional wellbeing of this incredibly important community.
Rachel was awarded the AVCAT Vietnam Veterans’ Association of Australia SA (VVAA SA), Daryl Knapp Memorial Scholarship in 2017.