“I was one of 32 soldiers in the area. We were facing more than 2000 RPA soldiers. We were good, but not that good. The numbers were heavily in their favour. I was worried but I wasn’t scared. All I had was questions. How the hell had a medical mercy mission ended in such a horrific tragedy? How had it been allowed to even get to this? Why were we not allowed to fire our weapons, to defend these poor refugees? God, I thought, I hope we live through this day. And if we do, I tell you what, won’t I have a story to tell.”
Combat Medic is a personal account of Terry Pickard one Australian soldier who found himself at the centre of events that shocked the world, the Kihebo massacre in Rwanda, and the debilitating personal toll that he experienced as a result.
On the 22nd of April 1995 more than 4,000 Rwandans were massacred and thousands more injured in a place called Kibeho. Terry Pickard, a seasoned soldier and medic, was one of a 32-strong force of UN peacekeepers in Kibeho on that terrible Saturday. While the United Nations’ presence prevented the death toll from being even worse than it was, the massacre continues to haunt him.
The rules of engagement that stopped him from intervening in the senseless slaughter and the life and death decisions he was forced to make when dealing with the injured condemned him to more than a decade of recurring nightmares and debilitating flashbacks.
The horror and unimaginable tragedy of the Kibeho Massacre still looms large in the lives of Rwandans and the people sent to help the African country. No one who walked away from that day was ever the same again.
Reader Review “Combat Medic” is a fascinating story and a journey of one man’s life, pre and post Rwanda . Pickard is vivid in his descriptions of what it was like to serve on a UN mission. He is critical of how people have judged Peacekeeping service and the lack of bravery awards handed out to members of UNAMIR at Kibeho.
The powerful and confronting account of Pickard’s time at Kibeho will shock you. It will go some way for the reader to understand, why Pickard has struggled with severe Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) for so many years since his return to Australia . Pickard definitely wears his heart on his sleeve as he deals with his illness.
Pickard sums up his time at Kibeho, “April 18-22 1995, was the most testing time of my life both physically and mentally. I believe I did ok. We saved who we could and did our best in the most atrocious conditions”.
The members who served as part of United Nations Assistance Mission in Rwanda (UNAMIR) were awarded the Australian Service Medal (ASM) for ‘non warlike service’. In February 2006, the Government of the day changed the reclassification of service to the Australian Active Service Medal (AASM) for Warlike service.
Terry Pickard, the ADF members who served as part of UNIMAR and George Gittoes are the real heroes of Kibeho. The Anzac legend lives on.”
Review by Gordon Traill | Editor: www.peacekeepers.asn.au