Setting an example for his sons

Department of Defence

When Luke Manhire held his first-born son 23 years ago, he knew he had to join the ADF.

When the tragedy of 9/11 provided a poignant underscore to the joy of his son’s birth, what had always been a nebulous possibility during his late teens suddenly morphed into a deeper desire to be of service to his country.

However, like most things, life got in the way and his dream was shelved until 2011 when he joined the Army in his 30s.

“Within not even six months of being in 7th Battalion, the Royal Australian Regiment, I was deployed to Afghanistan as part of Guardian Angel Platoon,” Mr Manhire said.

“It was tough coming back. It took me a while to be properly diagnosed with anxiety, depression and post-traumatic stress and I found it hard to get myself back on track after I was discharged in 2015.”

Just as things started to fall into place, Mr Manhire’s eldest son, Johnathon, was in a motorcycle accident and needed to learn how to walk again. Not long afterwards, history repeated itself, only this time Mr Manhire’s motorcycle injury required his left leg to be amputated at the knee.

Nine days after undergoing two surgeries, Mr Manhire was out of hospital and on the road to rehabilitation, with sport playing an integral role in his recovery.

“I used to play rugby union and league when I was younger, and my love of sport [was] rekindled again after the accident,” he said.

The Adelaide-based Army veteran is now in Florida to compete in archery, sitting volleyball, wheelchair rugby and indoor rowing at the US Department of Defense Warrior Games until June 30.

“Obviously sport helps with your physical health, but it also helps me with my mental health. It keeps my mind active and focused,” Mr Manhire said.

“Archery and wheelchair rugby are my favourite sports, but what I like most about being a part of these games is the fact I’m surrounded by people who are similar to me.

“We’ve all gone through the same sort of things – everyone has an injury of some kind – so to be around people who can relate to your experiences gives you that boost of confidence within yourself that you can do things and keep moving forward.”

While he looks forward to taking on the Americans at this annual adaptive sporting event, Mr Manhire’s main goal is to build camaraderie among a community of like-minded individuals.

He also wants to make his four sons, Johnathon (23), James (19), Glenn (17) and Blake (2) – who will be watching their dad from home – proud.

“I’m conscious of the fact I’m setting my boys an example that you can still continue on even when something like this happens to you,” Mr Manhire said.

“It doesn’t matter what life throws at you or what your age might be, anything is attainable if you’re willing to put the hard yards in.”

This is the message Mr Manhire also hopes to share with the broader community, particularly school-aged children, through motivational speaking.

“I need to tell them – and they need to hear – that there’s never a reason to give up,” he said.

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