Monday, October 22, 2012

Hi Ross Thank you for your mail, I have posted it on the blog and on some of the SADF groups on facebook that I belong too. Thank you so much for writing to me. That is the nice thing about the blog, when you least expect it, you get a mail from some one.. that to me is very special. All the feedback I get from my blog is honestly very precious and dear to me. When I started the blog 7 years ago... it wasn't "cool" yet to talk about the army and what happened there. Since then quite a few books have been published and the media have also started to talk about it. Now people are talking about it openly. What really got me back then, was the stories of despair I got to hear. Men who was in such a state that they were not fit to work.. who could not live normal lives, all thanks to Border Duty. That made me realize that I could actually do some good with my blog.. but I ran myself into a brick wall over and over again with this topic. I am glad to say things have changed... guys are talking bout their experiences.. and they are catching up with other guys that were with them on the border. At least they are not bottling it all up no more.. they are venting.. talking... letting it all out. its not anymore something to be ashamed about, once again they can be proud of once being a member of the SADF 30 years ago. Due to my experiences as a child I was diagnosed at a PTSD sufferer. Like you, I started to write, as it was impossible to remember and relay in 30 minutes what i felt and experienced in a week. I started to write, and then read back to my psychologist in that 30 mins i had once a week. I of course kept my writings, and sometimes read it over again after a month or so I was astound at what i felt at that very moment when writing it. I realized later that the writing did me more good than the shrink. So that have been my advice to everyone who had problems.. WRITE. And that is how the blog started... but this was much better.. I GOT FEEDBACK. YAY!! The blog has given me a much better idea of exactly what happened that day my dad and Hendrik died. I was only a child of nearly 12 when they died, and I was told nothing. or only the bare essentials. It helped me to come to terms with what happened that day. But most of all, it made me very proud and extremely humble. Warm Greetings Riana v d Westhuizen
This was a letter to me I found under the comment segment of this blog today. I thank the writer for making my day. Dear Riana, I was the Signals NCO for Group 30, later Sector 30 in Otjiwarongo in 1978 and 1979. On the Ccommando radio network the Tsumeb Commando call-sign was 91, Outjo 81, Grootfontein 61 and so forth. Early in 78, returning from patrol near Etosha, one team's unimog crashed. The radio batteries were completely empty, so the signaller made a fire to warm up the batteries enough to get one whisper of a signal out to call for help. He sent out an sos which we picked up at our HQ, but the signal rapidly decreased in strength as the batteries burst of power faded, and the coordinates in slidex only your Mother could hear. And relayed to us, this was enough to find and recover the patrol. This alerted us to the unique atmospheric situation at your family farm, (We could sometimes even hear New York City taxi cabs! when we came over) So we cut several antennae for the different frequencies, and after testing various cuts and yagi's found that nothing beat the inverted "V" that mother used. We kept 91 as your Mother's call-sign for all networks, a large security risk, but really, your mother need no callsign, her voice and character were identification enough! Your family deserves a monument in stone, but let me assure you, you have a monument of memories based on all the warm recollections of your family and the gratefullness for all the lives and misery your family has spared. For this we thank you. Steffen Gentis October 2, 2012 11:11 AM
Hi Riana, I came across your blog today quite by accident. My name is Ross Hesom and I was a National Serviceman at 101 Workshop Unit in Grootfontein from July 1984 to December 1985. Although based at Grootfontein, I travelled extensively between Ruacana and Katima Mulilo to all the artillery bases and smaller mechanized camps to service the field guns and also Ratel and Eland 90mm guns and turrets. I also did some camps on the border during the SADF withdrawal. We were based at the gates of 61 Mech and I was tasked with looking after the Olifant tank guns and turrets since I was a "Gun Tiffie". I read your blog on PTSD and I also have a story to tell. In May 2006 I had a complete breakdown and ended up in therapy being treated for Combat Related Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. What a shock after all that time back in divvy street to be given a diagnosis like that! Although I never saw actual combat, I was exposed to the trauma enough to carry the scars for 20 years before actually being able to deal with them. As a release for the stories and memories causing daily flashbacks over those 20 years, I started writing everything down exactly as I remembered them. I showed the transcripts to my therapist who asked if I had told any of this to my wife or family. The official secrets act forced us to bottle everything up and having shown the transcripts to my wife and parents, they were shocked at what I had written. My parents who waited and worried while I was on the border for 18 months as a NSM and then during the camps had no idea what we were doing. As a result of the reaction from my family and the lack of knowledge of what we went through, I cleaned up the transcripts and have had them published under the name "From Boys to Men" - by Ross Hesom - A Victim of Conscription. Writing the book was very easy as I remembered every incident in crisp, clear detail as if it had happened an hour ago. I now have to go back to the book to recall a lot of the stories. Writing is wonderful therapy and I recommend that every veteran sit down and write his stories. I know that this is not realistic to expect. The other reason for writing and publishing the book was to hopefully reach as many of the SADF veterans who 'Knew that they were different" when they returned home and "didn't know why". I put those two comments in inverted commas because there is a whole generation of South African men out there who are feeling the way I did for 20 years. It is not a lost or forgotten cause and recovery is possible with the right help. The book, "From Boys to Men" is available for download through Google Books as an e-book for Canadian $7,99 at If you would prefer, send me your address and I will mail you a paperback copy for free. Thank you for taking the time to create the blog. It is something that is sorely needed. Regards Ross Hesom