Together we stand: Craig Greenhill and Daniel Chapman
Craig Greenhill always wanted to serve in Defence, but life had other plans. His fortune changed when he was assigned as a photographer to Daniel Chapman’s regiment while on tour in Afghanistan.
As told to Jessica Abelsohn
Craig Greenhill dreamed of being a pilot in the Defence Force, but didn’t pass the entry requirements. Later in life, he finally got the chance to photograph Australian soldiers, including Daniel Chapman, on deployment in Afghanistan.
I was an avid reader of National Geographic magazine, whenever my dad would bring it home. I loved the idea of travelling the world to photograph what I experienced.
After realising I wouldn’t be able to serve in Defence because of poor eyesight, photography became a new passion of mine. On a whim, I got in touch with The Daily Telegraph, despite not having any paid work experience as a photographer. While on a work experience job with the Tele, I took some photos of my own, from off to the side. To my surprise, those photos were featured in the paper the following day.
From then, I became the Tele’s go-to photographer, especially for the hairier news moments, such as the Cronulla Riots. Then I was offered the chance to go to Afghanistan – the usual war photographer couldn’t go.
It was the dream of a lifetime to photograph Australians in a war scenario. I was attached to the 2nd/14th Light Horse Regiment, which is how I met Daniel Chapman.
At one point we went into the mountains, quite rugged territory, to a place called Chukrijoy. The journey was risky and the engineers had to walk the pathway with metal detectors to make sure there were no IEDs. I certainly got a taste of what it would be like to serve. Those soldiers are true heroes in my eyes.
Dan took me under his wing while I was in Afghanistan and made sure I felt comfortable among the troops. I was an outsider attached to a really tight group of people, and it was clear that Dan was a person others relied on. They really leaned on him for support and that proved quite a burden on him.
What’s so unique about Dan are the moments that he boosted morale. I’ll never forget when we were in a makeshift base on ANZAC Day and a man came past with his donkey. Dan negotiated for the troops to have a ride. Even I jumped on.
Before the donkey ride, the company had gathered around a handmade cross to remember those who had fallen. That was one of the most special moments, to be in probably the most remote place of any Australian soldier on that day. It was amazing.
These days, it’s a great honour to photograph RSL NSW-led commemorations such as ANZAC Day, Remembrance Day and sporting events such as Aqua Rugby.
My grandfathers both went to war, but they didn’t want to speak about their service. My grandfather was injured in Papua New Guinea and spent a lot of time in hospital, even decades later, because of his injuries. And he never spoke about his time.
So to be able to honour people like my grandfather and younger veterans like Dan who I’ve stood side-by-side with, I can’t imagine anything more rewarding.
Army veteran Daniel Chapman joined Defence a little later than most. After being the person his regiment would rely on for support, he has since found support for himself within the RSL, even as he continues to be a shoulder for those around him.
I was a chef prior to enlisting in the Army. After basic training I ended up as a cavalryman in the 2nd/14th Light Horse Regiment. Not long after that, I was deployed to Afghanistan.
I connected immediately with Craig and we’ve formed a really close bond. He still calls me up on ANZAC Day and my birthday. It’s a really wonderful friendship.
I’m one of those people who doesn’t like seeing photos of myself, but when I do look at the pictures Craig took from my Army days, I realise he did a really good job at showing what life was like in Afghanistan.
I never took my position for granted. As a soldier, you’re there to do your job. So it could be minus 30 degrees and freezing cold, and I wouldn’t complain. I knew that there were so many people back home who would take my position in a heartbeat.
I always made sure to thank the engineers especially. They’d say good luck before we left each morning and when we’d come back I’d always say thank you, because they got us back safe and sound.
While on deployment, it became natural to be there for those around me. But the biggest journey has been keeping these guys safe when we got home. We’ve lost so many guys to suicide. I have struggled with mental health, particularly PTSD, but I suffered a lot in silence.
It naturally fell on me to keep everyone happy and get the best out of people, especially those who didn’t deploy. I truly think that the service medal is the most important medal of all. Those who are deployed aren’t able to do their jobs without the people back home. I try to reinforce that with the young guys.
I didn’t want to leave the Army. I was told my services were no longer required and was medically released. I was left without an identity, really.
That’s why I fell in love with the RSL. Being a part of the RSL helped not just me but my family as well, making sure my wife at the time and my kids were looked after.
Last year, I lost everything in the floods. The response from NSW and RSL LifeCare Veteran Services was very quick; I was provided with temporary housing, food and fuel vouchers. It was incredible to have that support, and for as long as I needed it.
It’s up to us younger veterans to help out too. That reflects my attitude of helping people and boosting morale – just like I tried to for my unit while on tour in Afghanistan. I still remember the symbolism of commemorating ANZAC Day with a Dawn Service. There’s not one of us who will forget that moment of commemoration and joy.
And Craig was there to capture the moment. He’s certainly an amazing man.
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