Stan Potgieter sets off on a 2500km journey to raise funds to support soldiers battling PTSD; he is making the journey on his electrically assisted pedal tricycle.
South Africa (23 May 2022) – 56-year-old military veteran Stan Potgieter found his peace after carrying the pain of his service for more than 30 years. Now he hopes to help fellow soldiers battling PTSD.
When Stan was 17-years-old, he was called up to join the army. A year later, he was part of a patrol on the Angolan border that changed his life forever. He was part of a four-man team patrolling in enemy territory when they were attacked; a rifle grenade fired at them, killing his friend and Corporal Johannes Theunissen, nicknamed ‘Piesang’.
The three remaining men were fired upon, with AK 47 and SKS rifle bullets taking out everyone except Stan. He managed to radio for help and spent the next hour trying to save the remainder of his squad. A helicopter arrived but was only able to take the injured and deceased. This meant Stan spent a further seven hours behind enemy lines, all alone.
He spent those hours trying to absorb what had happened. Back at base, he was sent to sit with the priest and together, they prayed, and that was the last anyone spoke to him of the loss. Stan wrote reports and documented the fight and was then assigned to a new post. You can read his complete account of the harrowing ambush here.
After a ruptured knee ligament sent him home for medical care, Stan was released from the army due to being declared medically unfit. He had to carve a new life for himself and trained as a toolmaker for his trade. He was able to build a life with his wife and welcome two wonderful children into his life.
Discovering his Ghosts
Stan spent the next few decades burying the pain of what he endured during the war. His struggles took a toll on his relationships and his mental health.
In 2014, Stan spoke out, and it changed his entire life. He joined a discussion on Jacaranda FM. Asked about his military experience, Stan opened up about everything he had been through and the mental anguish he suffered as a result. Suddenly painful emotions that lay dormant for over 30 years came to the surface.
He discovered he was not alone when the radio station was flooded with calls from fellow veterans who felt the same anguish. This inspired Stan to face his time in the war, which led to him launching his non-profit organisation, “Wear it for the Wounded”.
Wear it for the Wounded focuses on raising awareness about Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and supporting veterans still battling because of untreated PTSD. Not only do veterans experience PTSD; Stan also supports police officers, first responders, paramedics, health workers and anyone that has lived through traumatic events in the line of duty to others.
“It is essential for veterans to realise that they are not alone and that they should open up and share their past traumas with family and friends to face their trials and tribulations,”
A 2500km Journey
To raise funds to support more veterans, Stan plans to make a 2500km journey on his specially built electrically assisted pedal tricycle.
Starting on the 21st of May 2022, Stan will journey from the Voortrekker Monument to the scene of the ambush in Ondangwa, Southwest Africa, on 23 June 2022. This cathartic journey will hopefully help him raise R100,000 on BackaBuddy.
“We need to show our solidarity with those who have fought, suffered and died for a better life for us all. Irrespective of whose side they were on, these men and women answered the call to defend what they, at that time, held dear. Victims one and all. Helpless pawns in politicians’ games.
They deserve our thanks, love, help and support. As do the first responders, Police, Paramedics or Health workers, who deal with traumatic events almost daily.” – says Stan
You can support Stan’s honourable journey here.