Having witnessed the battlefields of Vietnam and the crippling effects of post-traumatic stress disorder, a 10,000 kilometre bike ride across six countries seems almost a breeze for Laurie ‘Truck’ Sams.
The Vietnam vet hopped on his bike on May 12 at the Australian Embassy in Hanoi, Vietnam, for The Long Ride Home, raising awareness and money to tackle PTSD.
So far, he’s travelled about 9500 kilometres, through Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore and Australia, and is due in Canberra for Remembrance Day on November 11, finishing up at the Sydney Opera House on November 20. And last Wednesday, Mr Sams visited Melton en route to Geelong.
“Three years ago, I started noticing former soldiers who fought in Iraq and Afghanistan, are not quite the same,” Mr Sams, 67, said.
“They reminded me of us when we returned home from Vietnam … they don’t have the confidence to seek help – it’s just dejavu.”
Mr Sams was a Special Air Service Regiment soldier in Vietnam, and a champion parachutist. He lost a leg after a parachute accident more than 15 years ago, and was awarded the Star of Courage for saving his partner by bearing the brunt of the impact.
These days, Mr Sams dedicates himself to raising awareness about PTSD to help veterans.
Melton council chief executive Kel Tori commended his courage and his challenge.
“They stood forward, stepped up to the plate when there was a war,” Mr Sams said. “It’s up to us to pay back and make sure they’re OK.”