Not many will stand taller at Saturday’s Coolum-Peregian RSL Anzac Day service than Drew Dwyer, and not just because of his considerable height of 218cm (seven foot two inches).
Drew, at 42 years of age, is a young veteran but he is as proud of his country, and our past and present serving men and women, as anyone you are likely to meet.
The former army nurse, with a Bachelor of Science (Nursing) and a Bachelor of Applied Social Science from the Australian College of Applied Psychology, said Anzac Day was a time to remember everybody who had been involved in the fight for freedom and peace.
“Anzac Day is important for our family, and important for me to know that my children understand that that respect must remain and it must be carried on,” he said.
“If we don’t play our role in keeping a balance (in the world), we’ll allow the mistake of our freedom and our democracy to be taken from us.”
Drew spent 16 years in the army in the medical and nursing field.
“I joined as a young fellow and went to Kapooka army training camp,” he said.
“I completed the 12 weeks of training but I couldn’t march out because I couldn’t do a chin-up because I was seven foot two.
“The mechanics don’t work. I’d have to be built like the Hulk to be able to pull my frame up.
“It took them a while to work that out.”
Drew eventually got a posting to the Butterworth air base in Malaysia with the infantry battalion of 6RAR in 1988.
From there he was posted to Thailand where the military taught him to read, write and speak Thai.
After moving around infantry and field battalions in Queensland, Drew went back to Kapooka, as a drill instructor, where he was relieved to find chin-ups were no longer required.
“I was pretty happy about that,” he said.
“I didn’t have to make anyone do something I couldn’t do myself.”
When the army acquired Blackhawk helicopters, Drew’s career took a new twist.
“I was sent to learn aviation medical evacuation and the emergency management of surgical trauma in preparation for war,” he said.
“At the end of that, the army decided to put the Blackhawks into operation in Cambodia on active service with the United Nations.”
He completed two tours of Cambodia in 1992 and 1993.
Drew does not like to talk about his experiences there, only saying it was “not a nice time”.
“But, from an Australian soldier’s perspective, and working with other nations, you get to see how highly trained we are, and how specialised and multi-skilled we are,” he said.
“I worked in the German field hospital … and they were doing about 1000 amputees a month at one stage.”
Though Cambodia’s “killing fields” atrocities occurred in the mid-to-late 1970s, Drew said the political situation was still “very hot” during his time there, with 76% of the country affected by land mines.
Drew left the army in 2000 and now lectures and teaches in aged care, running Frontline Aged Care Solutions with his wife Raeleen.
“We basically train and develop nurses and carers in aged care,” he said.
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