RAAF amputee preps for last Anzac Day in uniform
CORPORAL Jim Dwyer is preparing himself for his last Anzac Day in uniform, 18 months after losing his right leg in an airfield accident at RAAF Base Garbutt.
The fitter armourer's life was forever changed on August 16, 2017 when a piece of machinery fell on him during routine maintenance.
"They (the doctors) managed to save my left foot which was great because they really doubted they could at the time, Cpl Dwyer said.
"It's been a blessing to avoid double prosthetics."
This horrific accident has had lasting physical and invisible injuries for Cpl Dwyer.
"My mind plays some funny tricks with phantom pain," he said. "It's just a weird sensation that feels like someone is sticking pins into my toes."
By his side through the whole ordeal was wife Virginia, who recalls the harrowing moment she was called in the middle of the night.
"I actually don't remember much of that first week," she said. "I went into complete survival mode."
There's no denying that Cpl Dwyer still has his down days but now the couple are focused on finding their new normal, which includes living with post traumatic stress disorder.
Cpl Dwyer puts it down to a deployment to Iraq in 2007 with the Australian training team teaching trades to Iraqis.
"I thought I was all right and turns out I wasn't," he said.
"It was actually my favourite one because it was real.
"We were one-on-one (with Iraqi soldiers) and could really see we were doing a great job (training them)."
The serviceman will suit up today with his medals proudly displayed from three deployments to the Middle East but it will be a bittersweet Anzac Day
"I'm about to be medically discharged so this will be my last one in uniform," he said.
"A very sad one for me."
Cpl Dwyer plans to march alongside his unit even if that means being pushed by workmates in his wheelchair.
"From the Commanding Officer down everyone at my unit has been nothing short of brilliant," he said.
It's this sense of belonging to the veteran community that Cpl Dwyer will take with him into civilian life, and plans to hold on to it through adaptive sport. Cpl Dwyer has found an escape from his injuries in off-road racing, a sport that gets him fired up and motivated to get out of bed each day.
"You get that feeling in the pit of your stomach at the starting line and then it's go time," he said.
"In racing you can't afford to get scared.
"I have to stay focused and push myself as hard as I can."
Cpl Dwyer's off-road buggy has required a great deal of modifications to make it fit for him, including the expensive task of turning it into a clutch-free driver.
"Luckily I've had the full support of my wife because I've spent a fair bit of money on this race car over the past 12 months," he said.
But it will all be worth it when Cpl Dwyer is in his happy place on the track, with his disabilities far from his thoughts.