VIETNAM veteran and Swanbourne resident Ric Mahoney (69) says those reviewing the proposed demolition of the SAS’s Seaward Village must remember that the elite soldiers and their families are living with almost constant active war service.
“The SAS guys go out on patrol in groups of four or eight and live in the pockets of their mates and so when they come home the last thing they need is to be stuffed into some apartment unit, as they need their space to get away from it all,” Mr Mahoney said.
During 10 months in Vietnam as an artillery surveyor, Mr Mahoney would see stressed soldiers fight each other at Nui Dat base and in its bar.
He said he knows what it is like to return from armed conflict and was lucky to have a large supportive family at the time.
He said those working for Defence Housing Australia (DHA), which has proposed the redevelopment, may not understand the needs of SAS soldiers, who can be deployed several times a year, and their families.
“They need to come home to normalcy, to peace and quiet, and see the same garden their wives planted, and know their neighbours are the same people that they left,” Mr Mahoney said.
As a former Swanbourne Surf Lifesaving Club officer, he walked junior members to their homes in the village.
“The kids always say ‘dad’s off somewhere, and mum doesn’t know where he is’,” Mr Mahoney said.
He has attended DHA briefings on the proposed redevelopment of the 152-home village, which would see about half the 22ha sold for private housing, leaving the soldiers in a new, high-density precinct in the village’s north.
“If you instead renovate those current 152 homes, you are showing some compassion and recognition of the soldiers’ and wives’ needs, and not bulldoze the gardens which they have put so much effort into,” he said.