Former army medic Stewart Sherman's life was transformed when he began training for and competed in archery at last year's Invictus Games.
The Invictus Games use the power of sport to inspire recovery, support rehabilitation and generate a wider understanding and respect for wounded, injured and sick servicemen and women.
And by his own admission Sherman more than qualified after being discharged from the army in 2013 with post traumatic stress disorder.
“I did 13 years in the army as a medic. I served overseas in the Solomon Islands and in Afghanistan with the 1st Battalion,” he said
I unfortunately I got PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder) from my tour to Afghanistan in 2007 and was subsequently discharged in 2013.
“Before I went to the Invictus Games this year in Orlando I was at the bottom of a bottle of scotch and not in a good way mentally.
“By competing, training and goal-setting I was able to get there and come home and think ‘that’s made my life a lot better I reckon I can help a lot of other people out’.
“Through that I’ve been able to help people get off the couch, stop drinking, sort their mental health issues out by seeking help, finding advocates and doctors and getting them into sport, giving them a focus and something to do.”
Sherman, who has settled in East Maitland with his wife and two young sons, established the RSL Active program three months ago and already more than 30 former service men and women are taking part in the twice monthly archery shoots at Rutherford.
The veterans use the Feral Archery facilities and coach Lynne Fairhall helps out with equipment and tips for participants.
There is a monthly day-shoot on a Saturday and a mid-week training session once a month. A mid-week session is also held in Gosford.
“I think setting goals after the military is very important as it helps us move forward create a better life for ourselves and our families,” Sherman said.
“A lot of the guys who come along are prospective participants in the Invictus Games. They are training as hard as they can here to go down to the trials in January.
“Most of the guys are from the Hunter area, but we do have guys and girls from Coffs Harbour and from down in Sydney who come up.”
Sherman said as part of a holistic approach, veterans are encouraged to bring along their wife, husband or partner and the kids as well
A national RSL archery competition was an initial goal, but he believed the concept would inevitably involve other sports as well.
But Sherman said it was equally important for RSL Active teams and individuals to branch out and compete in local wider sporting community competitions.