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Coming Home – featuring Vietnam veteran Richard McLaren and Karen McLaren (Melzer, 2014)

When Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) Vietnam veteran, Richard McLaren, returned home from Vietnam in 1970, he was ostracized from his family and he believed no one understood him. Richard was identified as having PTSD almost twenty-five years after discharging from the RAAF. However, he disputed the claim as he thought the diagnosis was based solely on his participation in the Vietnam War. Richard feels his issues stemmed from his treatment after coming home and the lack of support rather than from doing his job in the RAAF and doing it well. During a parade in 1998, Richard was screaming internally he said and almost walked out of the parade. He grappled with people coming up to him as he marched, when they said ‘welcome home’ or ‘well done’ and patted him on the back, eighteen years after he had returned home from Vietnam. In his mind, the whole event was a case of ‘too little too late’.

In 2014, forty-four years after returning from his tour in Vietnam, Richard returned to Vietnam with his wife of twenty years, Karen McLaren. They renewed their wedding vows creating a positive memory of the place. Together they have learnt how to manage the symptoms of PTSD that saw them metaphorically ‘go to hell and back’. This is a beautiful story about how love and commitment to each other, and the therapeutic value of photography, helped with the adverse effects of living with PTSD.