A decade ago, David Cirulis reckoned he was invincible. A member of Australia's most elite and secretive fighting force, the Special Air Service Regiment, he was in his own words, "a rock star" on the battlefield.
In East Timor in 1999, he fought the pro-Indonesian militia while suffering from an almost fatal bout of dengue fever. On his second tour in the dark and dangerous jungles, a busted knee and a back injury barely slowed him down.
When other soldier's bodies or minds began to buckle under the strain, like the other boys still standing on top of the mountain he looked down on them with scorn. A terse "toughen up sunshine" was the closest thing to comfort he would offer. Weakness was failure and was not tolerated in the SAS.
As soon as he arrived back in Australia from a deployment, he would hit the pub with his warrior brothers. The nightmares he had begun to suffer, and the pain of his injuries, were drowned out on four-day benders.
At home, a young daughter and a wife waited. She eventually left him, but he barely blinked - he was married to the regiment.
After the September 11 terrorist attacks, he was among the first wave of Australian SAS soldiers to hit the ground in Afghanistan.
Operating behind enemy lines, in hostile territory, he did and saw things that changed him. By day, he was still a rock, operating to the regiment's relentless standards. At night, the cracks in his stony exterior began to tell.
Deep in hostile country, his life and his comrades' dependent on stealth and secrecy, he would cry out in his sleep. It got so bad that the man on lookout would need to sit close whenever he lay down to rest to shut him up.
Sgt Cirulis was embarrassed, he was ashamed, he was in denial. His body was failing him - knees and neck and back and shoulder refusing to function after countless injuries sustained on the job. The scars on the inside, the open wounds in his mind, were something he never talked about.
In 2004, after years of service, they told him he was a liability.
When he left he was given a psychological evaluation, a "tick and flick" session. When he was asked why he was shaking, he blamed the fan cooling the room. It was the middle of summer, but his explanation was accepted.
It was after leaving the regiment that Sgt Cirulis went to war again. His enemies this time were not wiry men from a land of mountains and desert, but depression and anxiety. His daily battle was finding the will to keep living, to try to wrest assistance from a Government he felt had turned its back on him. They were conflicts he came close to losing.
Every time the headlines screamed of another Australian soldier killed in Afghanistan, Sgt Cirulis grieved for them. But he also grieved for the nameless but growing number of wounded, injured and broken men.
Their homecoming goes unmarked. The nature of their wounds remains hidden from the public eye. The ghosts of warriors, they nurse their maladies and undeserved shame in silence.
In the absence of a leg or two, in the disfigurement of severe burns or bullets or shrapnel still lodged in flesh, in the broken minds lies the hidden toll of a decade of war in Afghanistan. In plain sight, on the streets of Perth, all around the country, they remain invisible.
Yesterday, Sgt Cirulis broke the military's code of silence, telling his story in an effort to draw attention to the plight of those that have been crushed and chewed and spat out by the gears of the Australian war machine.
Sitting in a Fremantle hotel, his once steady trigger finger nervously tapping on a coffee cup, Sgt Cirulis, 41, said he bore scars inside and out.
He has been under the surgeon's knife about 10 times for different injuries caused by "wear and tear" - a legacy of 14 years of service.
Sgt Cirulis said others were worse off. While the Defence Department acknowledges more than 180 soldiers have been wounded in Afghanistan, the confronting nature of those wounds is something that has rarely revealed.
"I've had mates that have lost their legs and have been horribly burned," Sgt Cirulis said.
"A really good mate of mine was doing a reconnaissance mission, and went over to have a look at a particular arc (of fire), he stood on what we call a toe popper (mine) and lost his foot."
An infantry soldier in the regulars who he knew, barely in his 20s, came back to Australia injured and destined for a discharge. Too ashamed to go home, too stoic to ask for help from Veterans' Affairs, he squatted in the barracks until they kicked him out.
While gruelling training and the stress of being constantly vigilant for enemy and friendly fire in the field played a role, Sgt Cirulis said more than anything witnessing the plight of Afghan families was the final shot that pierced his mental armour and broke him.
The look in the eyes of those maimed by roadside bombs, the memory of terrified faces as his team burst into homes on raids, will haunt him forever.
"For a lot of years (during training) it was just targets, paper targets.
"When it is a real person, when you see their kids cowering in the corner, when you see their wives, it's just mayhem. I'll never forget the faces of those kids cowering in the corner as you came in.
"You see some horrific injuries from the roadside bombs on children. It's hard to deal with."
After he "got out", Sgt Cirulis spent two years working as a consultant, still refusing to deal with his issues, the mental and physical pain setting him on a collision course with rock bottom.
"I was drinking, and having incidents while I was drinking. A person came up and struck me at a night club, I just went berserk. I was putting my fist through doors at home, I put my fist through the windscreen of the car, I'd just lose it. It was just mounting and mounting and mounting. Then I just snapped."
His long-term family, the guys in the regiment, couldn't understand his situation or talk to him about what they were doing because of security issues.
His second wife and four children couldn't comprehend what he was going through.
"I was in an abyss," he said. "Once you're out, you're out."
In 2006, unable to work any more, he approached Veterans' Affairs for help.
Like many of the broken soldiers, he didn't know what to do with himself.
"In WA, there's heaps of us. It's sad. You've got guys working making kid's toys basically in sheltered workshops, so they can try and feel like they are doing something."
While they paid for his operations, DVA assessed him as only suffering from a low state of depression. He was put on an incapacity payment that equalled half his soldier's pay.
This was later reduced by 25 per cent, as an incentive to get him back to work.
When the physical pain and mental anguish became too much, his thoughts turned to suicide.
"It was just a matter of when I was going to top myself. It was just seeing my children and having those moments of clarity, I didn't want them or anyone to have to find my body. But it was on my mind all the time."
Locked in a battle with his own personal demons, his family became collateral damage.
"It cripples everybody. To have your husband say 'I don't feel like living any more and that nothing is enjoyable', your wife ends up getting depression. You have four beautiful kids, and you can't give them any time."
Fighting his demons and the DVA for more money, he was battling on two fronts.
"The kind of conversations I had with them was 'you were in a dangerous job, you knew you were going to get injured, you knew you were going to be sore. You knew the risks and that's what we paid you for'. I was made to feel like a scab."
While this was happening, he went away for a stretch in Hollywood Hospital. It was there that he was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder and major depression; and met others who were in the same boat.
During this difficult period, he was propped up by the support of a Vietnam veteran who had been through a similar ordeal.
With this man's help, he initiated legal action against DVA. The day before they were due to go to court last year, they compromised and gave him most of what he was entitled to.
His payments are classed as "temporary", which he is OK with, because he hopes to work again.
Once he was in the system, Sgt Cirulis said the treatment was "red carpet".
It was the initial application process post service, and the lack of care he received while serving, that he believes needs to be improved.
"There needs to be a system in the military to identify people in trouble, a solid approach, training for the people who see these soldiers every day so they can see changes in behaviour. Do it all in a way so that not everyone knows about it, and it doesn't affect their record."
Since January this year, Sgt Cirulis has been seeing a doctor that has helped him find out who he is, post SAS.
After months of rehabilitation, he this year started training at the The Mill, a Fremantle gym run by ex- SAS and commando soldiers.
While he still suffers from nightmares and is still on painkillers and anti-depressants, he feels like he is finally on the road to recovery.
It's been a tough learning curve, but he said he was now a better man because of everything he'd endured.
He harboured no ill will towards Defence, saying it gave him many of the core values that shaped him. At the same time, he said it had impeded his ability to live a normal life.
Sgt. Cirulis said it was time Australia's wounded and injured soldiers got the support they deserved; and there should be greater pre-emptive care and a commitment from DVA to streamline the application process for help.
He knows his own personal road back to normalcy will be a long one and that there are battles yet to be fought.
But for the first time in a long time, he's heading in the right direction. This is his personal war, and he's winning it, one day at a time.