Family’s bush adventure offers solace for veterans
A former Australian commando is facing one of the ultimate tests - going off grid for a year with his young family to help raise awareness and support for soldiers like him still battling post traumatic stress disorder.
Tewantin man Andy Fermo is about to pack up with his wife Claire and their kids Phoenix, 8 and Havana, 5, in their caravan "Bushy the Bushranger" for a personal mission to help those with invisible scars.
It comes after some tough times for the popular DJ who was on his second tour of Afghanistan in 2010 when an improvised explosive device blew up his vehicle, leaving him with shoulder, back and ankle wounds as well as hearing loss.
What the military surgeons could not repair was the mental scarring that plagued his life long after his return to Australia.
Since then he's been working towards raising awareness for veterans like himself who have struggled.
His work is not just for veterans, but emergency service first responders as well.
The Fermos have a goal of taking Bushy throughout regional Australia to connect with 1000 individuals struggling with post traumatic stress disorder and 200 families.
"It's been two years in the making for us to get to this point and in a few weeks' time we're about to embark on our adventure to help out veterans and those who provide their immediate support," Mr Fermo said.
"We're actually at a friend's place in Cooroibah camping and it's given us the opportunity to, in military terms, do rehearsals before the mission.
"It's important to connect with people in that way and show there are a lot of support services out there for individuals."
Mr Fermo said his children are feeling mixed emotions about their road ahead.
"They're excited, but also they're like 'how come you guys are tearing up what we know?'" he said
"That house that we were living in, that was a safe haven for them and now we've taken them from that and we're all in each other's faces," Mr Fermo said.
Ms Fermo said as an Indigenous woman she was looking forward to their travels through country.
"The thing I'm excited about is getting out there with the families and the wives or partners of people dealing with post traumatic stress disorder and all the places we're going to visit," she said.
Ms Fermo said last year's pandemic was good practice for the home schooling ahead and the kids aimed to stay in touch with Tewantin State School through Zoom calls to share some of their experiences with teachers and pupils.
They are self-funding the trip but are holding a fundraising Invisible Injuries launch at the Noosa Dolphins Rugby Ground on February 27 from 5.30-11.30pm for their support programs.
The day out includes a food truck dinner, drinks on arrival and six hours of live music entertainment with local solo artists, two bands, three DJs, a comedian, plus lucky door prizes.
Tickets are available from www.eventbrite.com.au/invisible-injuries.