Matina Jewell as a civilian.
Matina Jewell as a civilian.

Amazing story of war-zone survival

SHE'S a girl from Alstonville who has worked with two former prime ministers.

Matina Jewell, 35, has also written a book that tells her incredible story of survival as a United Nations peacekeeper caught in a war zone.

“The book (Caught in the Crossfire, Allen & Unwin) is set in a war zone, but it is so much more than a war story,” she said.

“It is also an underlying love story and, I hope, it will be a source of inspiration for anyone who has survived a tragedy.”

Mrs Jewell, who recently worked with Bob Hawke and Malcolm Fraser on the Anzac Centenary Commission, which will report to the government on how it should mark the Anzac Centenary, has been medically discharged from the forces.

A 1997 graduate of Duntroon, during 15 years of army service she worked alongside US Navy Seals blockading the Persian Gulf and dodged Israeli bombs in the 2006 Lebanon war.

But it was while she was in Lebanon that Hezbollah fighters ambushed an Israeli army vehicle, killing three soldiers and abducting two.

Israel responded by bombing Hezbollah and some of the UN peacekeepers, including Mrs Jewell, were forced to make a dangerous transit for the southern Lebanese port of Tyre.

On the way, the UN vehicle crashed and she suffered a suspected spinal injury.

What followed has been trauma, anxiety and medical problems and a long battle for health cover that has only recently been resolved by the Department of Veteran Affairs.

“I still take a lot of medication for pain and I need three to four treatments – including physiotherapy, chiropractic and acupuncture – a week to maintain mobility,” Mrs Jewell said.

“I will never be able to run again, but I am lucky to be alive.”

Her teammates at Patrol Base Khiam were killed when it was destroyed by bombing.

Her mother, Helen Stanfield, of Alstonville, said: “Matina is still suffering (from what happened to her in Lebanon).

“The hardest thing for her is survivor's guilt.”

Mrs Jewell said she was approached to write a book after her story went national on Australian Story on the ABC.

She treated the book as a “three-month campaign”, using diaries she kept during her time in the forces to pen her harrowing but also inspiring memoir.

“It was a very difficult story to write, to have to revisit that time,” she said.

“But I have had great feedback so far and been invited to be part of the Byron Bay Writers Festival.”

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