NORTH Rocks grandfather Rick ‘‘Barney’’ Bigwood has co-written a book with his son about his life as a soldier. A retired army corporal, Mr Bigwood is a Vietnam vet who candidly shares his experiences of war in his book We Were REOs: Australian Infantry Reinforcements in Vietnam.
He shares his story using amusing anecdotes, heartbreaking episodes and frank discussions of his struggle with post-traumatic stress disorder.
‘‘The unique experience of being a reinforcement in so many battalions in a war zone hadn’t been documented,’’ he said.
‘‘I had to leave a legacy for my grandchildren and to help other veterans with PTSD to know while there may be no cure you can get an understanding of what’s happened and you can change your attitudes and get family support.’’
He enlisted the help of his son Andrew, a history teacher, to co-write the book which they self-published.
The idea for a book was born when they travelled to Vietnam. Andrew said writing it was an emotional and a bonding experience.
‘‘As a historian I now recognise just how clichéd my life with a ‘damaged Vietnam Vet’ was — substance abuse, domestic violence, financial disasters.
It all reads like the classic Vietnam veteran story of popular history,’’ he said.
‘‘Living through it though was, quite frankly, hell.’’
Baulkham Hills MP and ex-Army Officer David Elliott volunteered to launch the book at State Parliament house after reading the book.
‘‘His extraordinary recollection of names and dates makes this a remarkable resource for students of modern history. It tells the story Hollywood can’t do in 90 minutes,’’ Mr Elliott said.
“It was an amazing and sometimes painful journey for both of us and today as I listen to my own children play and climb all over their smiling and laughing ‘Poppy’ I can’t help but wonder where that bitter, angry man of my youth has gone,'' Andrew said.
Leaving his mark in Australia’s history makes Rick Bigwood feel proud and accomplished.
“I self published as I wanted it finished and the path through publishers is a long tedious one. I never wanted to be a Thomas Kennealey and make a fortune - it was a personal journey”.
■Rick Bigwood will sign copies of his book at Book Haven, Stockland Mall Baulkham Hills, on Saturday, February16, at 10.30am.