KUALA LUMPUR: A former Australian soldier riding from Hanoi to Sydney to support veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) pedalled into Kuala Lumpur last night.
Laurie ‘Truck’ Sams, 67, who served with Australia’s Special Air Service Regiment in Vietnam in 1970 before losing a leg in a parachute accident in 1995, left Hanoi on May 12 and aims to reach Sydney Opera House six months and 10,000km later on Nov 20.
So far, the epic charity ride has taken Sams more than 5,400km through the steamy jungles and padi fields of Vietnam, Cambodia and Thailand.
He will leave tomorrow for Singapore via Malacca and Johor Baru after a send-off for the Kuala Lumpur leg of the Long Ride Home at the Australian High Commission in Kuala Lumpur yesterday.
Speaking to the media before the send-off, Sams said going back to Vietnam was a hard thing for him to do.
“Carrying the scars of war, returning to the place that I fought 45 years ago was tough.
“But by riding through the country, I have met a lot of veterans from my former enemies.”
When asked about how it felt on meeting the old “enemies”, Sams replied that they were going through the same PTSD problem he was facing.
PTSD is a mental health condition disorder that develops and triggers in some people who have experienced or witnessed a terrifying, shocking, scary, or dangerous event.
Symptoms may include flashbacks, nightmares and severe anxiety, as well as uncontrollable thoughts about the event.
A world champion parachutist, Sams was awarded Australia’s Star of Courage in 2001 for saving his tandem parachute student in the 1995 accident.
After learning to walk with a prosthetic leg, he began a series of trekking and cycling expeditions around South-East Asia to raise awareness and money for charitable causes.
Sams said that he set his sights on “the long ride home” to Australia as a friendship initiative between Australia and Asia and to support injured veterans.
“I’m blown away by the number of vets suffering from PTSD and other injuries, not just from Vietnam but all the conflicts we have been involved in before and since.
“I lost mates in Vietnam and many others are still suffering terribly, so I’m using the ride to raise money for their treatment and to really shine a spotlight on their problems.” said Sams.
Sams said sponsors were still being sought for the ride and anyone interested in finding out more about the ride and contributing could go to the ride website at www.thelongridehome.com.au.
Australian High Commissioner to Malaysia Rod Smith who led the flag-off event said that there was an appalling and disproportional effect of service personnel who suffered from PTSD.
“One in eight of our armed service personnel at any one time can be suffering from PTSD, compared to about one in 20 in the general population.
“That just shows how serious the issue it is for them especially those that have served in our armed services,” he said.