After joining the Army in 1968, Andy Peters’ military career spanned over 20 years, including active service in Malaysia and Vietnam and deployment to Singapore. “I joined the Army because I wanted to do something different, I wanted to see the world,” he says. “I gained so much and learned a lot about myself, and made some lifelong friendships along the way, but I couldn’t have done it without the support of my wife and family and all the sacrifices they made.”
After meeting his wife Shirley in the Army, they went on to have four children, all born in different locations due to Andy’s role moving them around from base to base. “I have been married for 42 years, and was in the Army for over 21 years – that’s half of my married life,” says Andy. “My wife and children had to be pretty resilient and adaptable because while the Army gave us so many opportunities, every three years we were moving and needing to pack up… it’s hard to put down roots when you know you’re going to be moving on.”
Finding a balance between family and Army life was part of the bigger picture, and Andy credits his wife for being the glue that held everything together. “It’s hard for the wives and partners – when you’re in the Army you’re away a lot, and when you come back you interrupt the balance…Inevitably, you overcompensate for being away,” he explains. “Kids are very resilient though, very adaptable, more than we give them credit for.” After many years of his wife putting the family first and being the homemaker, it was a proud moment for Andy when she went back to university and got her nursing degree. “I have to hand it to her, she did it, and she is such a role model, it was such a proud moment to watch her graduate,” he says. “She made so many sacrifices, and I couldn’t have had my Army career and my family without her.”
For Andy, the theme of family extends as much to his fellow soldiers as it does to his immediate family. Joining the Army was a pathway to decades of amazing experiences, all shared with his fellow soldiers. “When you are in the Army, you build camaraderie and have a history of shared experiences,” he says. “It binds you for life.” Today, Andy attends the funerals of many veterans, representing his division of the RSA. “The RSA is really a brotherhood, we have contacts all around the country. It does affect you when people pass on, and sadly there are large gaps in the ranks now... When there are funerals, we will always go and represent our fellow veterans. Family is what it is all about. We look after our brothers.”
It was family that was the catalyst to leave the Army finally. “By that time, after 21 years of service, my family needed a more stable home life… it was time to put down roots. Your family don’t choose the Army lifestyle, they adapt for you and your career, and that’s a special thing. But, it’s a part of who we all are now. Raising your kids in the Army, you all become a part of the forces family. It’s not just about you.”
Looking back, Andy has no regrets. “There’s no doubt that time with my family is the big thing I missed out on when I was away, though I can’t regret anything because everything I did I did for my family as much as for myself,” he says. “I learned a lot about who I am when I was in the Army and made some enduring friendships. You make sacrifices, but you also gain a lot too.”
The RSA have a national support services network who provide practical life-changing help to current and ex-service personnel and their families who are in need. Many Vietnam and Malayan Veterans live with service induced illnesses and injuries. Our support services team provide specialist advocacy services and work on behalf of individuals to ensure they receive their entitlements from government agencies and health providers. Your donation on Poppy Day helps them to achieve this.
This year on the 12th April you will see Poppy collectors in the street. Please give generously and wear your Poppy with pride.