“The legs feel good – all is in order after 8,500 kilometres on the bike.”
As Vietnam War veteran Laurie ‘Truck’ Sams took a moment to rest on the side of Highway One near Port Broughton last Monday, the toll of his 94-day journey was hidden by his sunny demeanor.
The 67-year-old former Special Air Service warrant officer lost his left leg below the knee in a parachute accident in 1995, but it has not stopped him from undertaking ‘The Long Ride Home from Vietnam to Australia’ – a 10,000 kilometre bike ride supporting awareness of veteran suicide and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
Starting in Hanoi, Vietnam in May, ‘Truck’ has ridden through Cambodia, Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore before beginning his Australian leg in August from Perth.
His journey will end in Canberra, where he hopes to present an Australian flag to Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull before returning to Sydney.
Laurie battled fierce conditions as he crossed the Nullarbor but received a warm welcome from the Port Pirie RSL Sub-Branch last Sunday.
He met Port Pirie Regional Council mayor John Rohde, RSL president Malcolm Bond, members and war veterans before taking a tour of the Huey Helicopter Museum.
“It was a fantastic reception in Port Pirie, probably the best we have had so far,” Laurie said.
Laurie’s visit to Port Pirie was timely as it coincided with Mental Health Week for 2016.
Laurie believed that more could be done generally to help those suffering from mental illness.
“Governments can help by providing more money to mental health care providers,” Laurie said.
“It is also important that their is greater understanding in the community about mental health. These thing’s don’t just affect old people… they affect young people, too.
“You don’t push people aside because of these illnesses.”
Laurie has raised over $61,000 so far along his journey, with the final total being donated to three leading PTSD charities – RSL DefenceCare, St John of God Richmond Hospital and Bravery Trust.