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Recognition for services to peace

David SalvaireSound Telegraph
Ex-Navy medic James Crosby with his service medals and a painting of the fallen helicopter Shark Zero Two.
Camera IconEx-Navy medic James Crosby with his service medals and a painting of the fallen helicopter Shark Zero Two. Credit: David Salvaire

A retired Waikiki army and navy medic has been recognised for his work in international peace operations with a Saluting their Service Certificate of Appreciation.

James Crosby joined the navy as a medic with the hopes of helping people and living an adventurous life full of travel.

After three years of training at an offshore hospital in NSW he joined the army, becoming a full-time nursing officer in 1995.

It was not long before Mr Crosby was deployed to Timor working alongside the United Nations where he spent seven months dealing with the fallout from the local conflict.

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“We were meant to look after the army, UN and non-governmental organisations but we ended up looking after local civilians too,” he said. “I was second in charge of the operating theatre doing resuscitations and we just couldn’t push them away.

“Some of the things we saw there, especially with the children, was quite harrowing.”

After a stint in the Solomon Islands, one of the toughest deployments came for Mr Crosby in 2004 when the Boxing Day tsunami struck.

Within a week of the tragic event, he was transferred to Aceh on the HMAS Kanimbla.

“There were kids’ toys and shoes scattered all over the place and we knew we were walking over bodies that were buried in the mud,” he said.

Despite the tragic experiences, Mr Crosby said he was happy to be helping those in need and thanked his wife and children for their support through the tough times.

“You’re not in a combative role, it’s a healing or nurturing role, so you feel good looking after the locals or soldiers,” he said.

“It’s helped me a lot but it’s also burnt me out a bit.

“I still have issues with post-traumatic stress disorder and that impacts on the family a bit. I think defence needs to give more attention to the families of people who serve because they’re the unsung heroes.”

The reality of combat hit home for Mr Crosby on April 2, 2005 when the Australian Naval Sea King helicopter, the Shark Zero Two, was lost at sea.

“I’d ridden on that a few times and lost some mates in the accident,” he said.

“When those things happen, it’s like a rock thrown in a pond, with the ripples reverberating through the families and the community.”

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