There are many ways in which servicemen and servicewomen stay connected to their families while on deployment. For the Shackleton family, Diana the camel became an important link between Afghanistan and Australia.
Lieutenant Ross Shackleton served as a nurse in the Royal Australian Navy, and in 2013 was deployed to a military hospital in Kandahar, Afghanistan. Ross worked with people from the Australian Army and Royal Australian Air Force in intensive care units and emergency wards, taking care of the sick and wounded. He was deployed for six months, and missed his family during this time. They stayed in contact through Skype, emails, and written letters.
While on deployment, Ross purchased a toy camel in Afghanistan which he named Diana. He sent Diana to John Brotchie Nursery School, where his wife Tiffany taught, and which his son Alexander attended. Ross was well known at the pre-school, and the children were excited to receive this gift, which became the class pet. The children enjoyed playing with Diana, and learnt more about camels and Afghanistan. Each child had the opportunity to take Diana home for the weekend, and shared their experiences with her in a journal collated by the families. Diana went on many weekend adventures, including attending discos, trips to the playground, and watching movies.
Tiffany reflected on the experience as “a beautiful way to keep myself, our son and all the children connected to Ross while he was away. It also introduced cultural understanding to the pre-school as the children became interested in Afghanistan and researched the country, the [Afghan] children, and what their schools were like”.