Ducks help army bomb disposal hero keep flashbacks in check
Paul and one of his pet ducks
Paul and ducks out for a walk
A former bomb disposal officer from Perth is coping with traumatic memories of Bosnia – by looking after his pet DUCKS.
Retired Royal Engineer Paul Wilkie (43), who was diagnosed with post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in October 2012, adopted his two Call ducks shortly after moving from Perth to Guildtown last September.
The former Perth Academy pupil, who served in Bosnia, Kosovo, Iraq and Afghanistan during his 22 years in the army, can often be spotted walking the ducks, named Hesco and Bastion, around the village.
The father-of-three, who left the Royal Engineers in June 2012, explained how he suffers from nightmarish flashbacks of his time in Bosnia every time he falls asleep.
“I was working for the United Nations in Bosnia about 18 years ago,” he said yesterday. “I won’t go into too much detail, but I saw children playing with mines and getting killed.
“Every night I go to sleep, I have to relive that horrible experience. Sometimes I have to go through it three or four or maybe even six times a night.
“I don’t know what triggers it, but I sometimes wake up covered in sweat.”
But Paul said his feathered friends, who are named after the temporary defensive walls soldiers construct around their camps on tour, were helping him to cope with his horrific nightly flashbacks.
“I’m getting it under control now, thanks to the ducks,” he said. “When I wake up in the middle of the night, I’ll go outside to cool down and see the ducks to make sure they’re OK. Just clapping them helps to calm me down. They’re therapeutical for me – they keep me sane. Then I’ll go back inside and try to get to sleep again.
“Now I’ve got something to look forward to in the morning. When I open their shed door in the morning, they come flying out to see me.
“I take them for walks down the street. I talk to them and they talk to me, and everyone in the village just thinks it’s comical.
“They waddle in front of me, and I take a walking stick to point them in the right direction if they stray left or right.
“I take them around the block and down to a treeline where there’s acorns – they like to eat the nuts down there.
“The kids around here love it. When they come out of school they’ll watch me walk them.
“At home, I let them roam around the my garden and eat the grass. They barely touch the duck feed! I’ve got a dog bath for them as well, and they love it. And at night, I put them back in their shed.
“All my neighbours want ducks now – they’ve had that effect on the whole neighbourhood!”
Paul said he has found it difficult to shrug off the stigma associated with PTSD, which he said is often misunderstood by most civilians.
“A lot of people don’t have a clue what PTSD is,” he said. “You’re not a raving lunatic, ready to beat people up or smash things up.
“I don’t know why people think about it that way. It can ruin your life – it ruined mine for a while. I used to be a right mess. But it doesn’t affect me during the day anymore. I might be tired some days, but that’s about it. You just have to get on with it.”