Volunteering is in Lee’s blood Lee O’Neill couldn’t agree more with Maree’s (our previous Frontier News Story click here) observations about the benefits of volunteering with us. The Vietnam Veteran turned Volunteer Hero – Lee O’Neill’s served as an Army Major, who gave 20 years’ service to the Army, has experienced debilitating PTSD due to his service. Lee speaks candidly of his struggles with his PTSD and alcohol over the years.
“I was a workaholic and an alcoholic,” Lee admits. “I would have nightmares. I’d wake up in a sweat and would drink more to fall back asleep. I knew something was wrong: I just didn’t know it was Vietnam.”
After retiring from the Army, Lee became a courier driver and later started a mowing and landscaping business with his wife. His world came crashing down one morning when he woke up and had no idea where he was or what he was doing. He would later discover that he had suffered a complete mental breakdown and was forced to undergo five weeks of treatment at a mental health institution. “My wife Lindy was an incredible support through it all, but in the end, I was forced to sell the business and retire.”
In retirement, Lee turned to volunteering. “I’ve always wanted to give: I have the need to give back, is how I would describe it,” he said. Lee initially volunteered for the Rural Fire Service. (Trivia of the day: at one base, he even served alongside former Prime Minister Tony Abbott!)
When his knees started to ‘go’, Lee looked around his community to see where else he might be of service.
His daughter Natalie suggested he volunteer for Frontier Services Outback Links. Lee says he hasn’t looked back since joining our volunteer frontline.
His first volunteer placement took him on an adventure to Gravesend: some 580 kilometres from his home in the
The Blue Mountains. With his trusty dog Casper by his side, he drove his camper van to the farm of Chris and Heather,
who runs a mixed business property, with cattle, sheep, and goats. Lee spent two weeks with the farmers, lending a hand when and where asked.
“I even helped Chris remove the tracks off a bulldozer at one stage,” he chuckles. “I had no idea what I was doing but Chris was very good at giving me instructions,” Lee says that volunteering with us has given him a different perspective on life. “I know there is always someone out there suffering worse than me.”
When we asked Lee how he felt about volunteering, and if he would continue to volunteer for our Outback Links
program, he quoted this famous line from a poem by Edgar Guest.
”As you close your eyes in slumber do you think that
God would say, You have earned one more tomorrow
by the work you did today?”
It’s not surprising that Lee quoted poetry as he is an accomplished poet in his own right. His stirring prose
is included in the International War Veterans Poetry Archives.
To read Lee’s poetry, visit www.iwvpa.net and search for ‘Lee O’Neill”.
Vietnam Veteran to Volunteer Hero – Lee O’Neill’s Story