AN EARLY morning cycle from Wangaratta to Wodonga could not faze someone who has already endured war, amputation and a 10,000-kilometre bike ride.
Laurie “Truck” Sams rode to the Border on Friday as part of his six-month trek from Hanoi to Sydney to raise awareness of veteran suicide and post-traumatic stress disorder.
Mr Sams, 67, said he still battled his own condition, a result of serving in Vietnam as a Special Air Service warrant officer in five-man patrols in 1969-1970. And the overseas section of his ride showed the struggles of returned service personnel affected all sides of a conflict.
“Immediately (the Vietnamese) jumped on post-traumatic stress disorder issues and I got a big surprise,” he said.
“I was quite taken aback, they really wanted to know a lot about it.”
“They set up dialogue with a former enemy actually, who I fought against possibly in the same conflicts.
“We were able to talk about scars of war, PTSD, shell shock.
“It is a worldwide issue, it doesn’t discriminate.”
Mr Sams said meeting a Vietnamese veteran displaying his war medals had been confronting at first.
“But we were able to break down those barriers after a couple of hours and talk for six hours,” he said. “It went that fast, so we left as friends.”
A self-described “crazy runner” until he lost his leg after a parachute accident in 1995, Mr Sams had the bike ride idea three years ago.
“I’ve had mothers write to me, their sons have committed suicide, very young men,” he said. “And I thought because I’ve been through it myself, I’d put my butt in the saddle and make a statement riding from Vietnam, from where I fought.
“Ten thousand kilometres represents the 10,000 day war, which is how long the war lasted in Vietnam.”
Since leaving from Hanoi on May 12, Mr Sams has ridden through Cambodia, Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore before flying to Perth and tackling the Nullarbor.
“Every day’s a different day,” the rider said.
“Starting in Vietnam from torrential rain, 40-degree heat down to south-western Australia, five degrees, with wind chill factors to the storms of South Australia to lovely days in the last three or four days here.”
From Albury-Wodonga Mr Sams will head north through Holbrook, Wagga, Gundagai, Yass and into Canberra for Remembrance Day. His ride ends at Sydney Opera House on November 20.
The Long Ride Home has raised more than $61,500 so far to support RSL Defence Care, St John of God trauma and mental health research initiative and Bravery Trust.
Donations can be made at thelongridehome.com.au.