“A great read (as ever). Fascinatingly educational on a country about which I had known nothing… I wish you all the best with this work with its three strands – the personal, the national and the spiritual. Love it!” William Scobie a.k.a., Alexander Tait, (author of Whisky In the Jar; Upon This Rock; The Cup; Mightier Than the Sword).
Jefferson Kollie has a story to tell, a true story, a harrowing story. To meet
is to like him. His smile is warm and his eyes are bright. His manner is friendly
and his voice is quiet. Who could guess the hurt this man carries in his heart
or the hellfire he’s passed through? His broad shoulders appear capable of
carrying the weight of the world. Let us begin by introducing this remarkable
I heard about Jeff from one of his workmates. “This man has an amazing story! Someone should write a book,” he said. I was intrigued. I had bumped into Jeff when I was “scouting” for the work’s soccer team. After a hiatus of many years I had rediscovered and had somewhat recaptured the glory of my youth (at age 59) while playing indoor soccer, which is fast and furious, energetic and frenetic when compared to the outdoor version of the game. Anyway, Jeff expressed super-keenness about becoming involved. Of course, and as these things go, because of busyness at work any participation in “the beautiful game” has yet to happen! “O well then Jeff, in the meantime we can always try to write down your story.
A Bit of Background
I met with Jeff formally and began scribbling down a pile of notes as we chatted. In soft-spoken tones he began telling me his story. I would interrupt and get him to elaborate on certain points. Upon hearing it from the horse’s mouth I became even more intrigued by Jeff’s story (and also the country of
) as I began piecing it all
Jefferson has enjoyed breathing the fresh air of freedom since touching down on the red earth of
in 2010. He came as a refugee from his native Australia Africa.
Drawing his first breath in 1985 in the West African country of Liberia, both whose flag (which was modelled
after The Star-spangled Banner) and his name betray Liberia’s
connection with the . “Jefferson” is a
tipping-of-the-hat to one of the founding fathers of United
States of America and principle author of the
Declaration of Independence, viz., Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826). Indeed, as per
the line in the American National Anthem, “ America ” means “Land of the Free”
in Latin. Liberia
“So you’re named after one of the presidents of the
? I love
Thomas Jefferson and all that Declaration of Independence stuff!” “So do I,”
Jeff replied. I had noticed that his workmates call him by his last name,
Kollie. “Which do you prefer,” I enquired, “Kollie or Jefferson?” “Call me
Jeff,” he smiled. After Jeff had left I just had to learn more about United States of America . Liberia
Let’s paint a bit more background on the canvas of Jeff’s story. The
declared its independence from American colonisation on 26 July, 1847. However,
it was not until during the America Civil War, (on 5 February 1862), that the Republic of Liberia
recognised Liberian independence. From 1822 onwards, and particularly from the
time of the War Between the States, United States Jefferson’s
old country began to receive an influx of over fifteen thousand freeborn Black
Americans and over three thousand Afro-Caribbeans,
and also freed slaves. Thus the American influences on , which included
Republicanism and the freedom ideal. Liberia
In a letter to James Monroe (1758-1831)
Jefferson’s namesake once
It seems as if Jefferson has acted upon this free advice of the third President of the
fifth president, becoming a private in the Australian Army in February 2015. United States of America Jefferson wears his uniform proudly. I saw him marching
with his battalion on ANZAC Day. Brisbane
There is one day of each year when Australians become ultra-patriotic flag-wavers, i.e., ANZAC Day. Apart from that one special day, as a general rule, Aussies tend be somewhat more reserved than, say, the Americans when it comes to visibly expressing love for country.
In some ways migrants, such as
Jefferson, can become more
patriotic than native born Australians. No doubt this may be because most native
born Australians know nothing other than the peace and freedom
has afforded them. This creates a tendency to take these things for granted. Whereas
the migrant, knowing what he or she has given up and left behind, fully
embraces and appreciates the protection and freedom Australia affords them.
This in turn gives an added incentive for them to thrive and to prosper as they
forge a new life in their new country. But, Australia Jefferson
is not just any-old migrant. He is a refugee.
He fled to
for safety from murderous pursuers… Australia
Fighting For What?
I used to cynically believe that many Australian soldiers fight for the two Ms, viz., money and medals. It seems I need to add a third and more important M to my list, viz., mates. It seems to me that mates are more worthy of fighting for than money and medals.
Australian soldiers do not fight for lofty ideals of democracy or freedom. Australian soldiers, it has been said many times and with great truth, fight for their mates.
Though Jefferson no doubt loves his mates, and would zealously fight for them, to the contrary, Jefferson Kollie wanted to sign-up with the Australian Army primarily to fight for the lofty ideals of democracy and freedom. He originally wanted to join as an Infantryman but colour-blindness precluded his fulfilling this ambition. He signed-up on 10 February, 2015. This young man who speaks English with an African accent – and, while living in Ghana, learnt to speak Ga, Twi and Hausa, and also who understands Kru, Ewé and Fante – is currently employed as a Storeman, and drives forklifts both great and small.
Thank you for bearing with Jeff’s story thus far. We were about to part company when, thinking of the trauma he must have gone through, I asked him how all of his past had affected him. There was pain etched on windows of his soul. But as a small cloud blows past the face of the sun so his eyes brightened and a wide smile lit up the room. “I’m fine!”
Before we enter with him into the valley of the shadow of death Jeff would like you to know (“spoiler alert!”) that his story has a happy ending of sorts – lest he leave you traumatised!
First off, you need to know that
Jefferson is unashamedly
Christian, (as is his biographer). Indeed, like every good fairytale, Jefferson is now as it were living happily ever after
with beautiful wife, and their three lovely children. His wife is originally
from Liberia too, but they
met in the humble circumstances of living in a refugee camp in
where they subsequently got married. However, just as every good fairytale
contains its share of make-believe evil witches and malevolent goblins, so Ghana Jefferson’s story describes battles against the evil
forces of darkness, only, unlike fairytales, this is in the real world. As Scripture
For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.
Jeff and his family currently attend a church in
During the day sometimes
Jefferson is attacked in a surprise
ambush by the odd flashback of past traumatic events, and, in bed the
occasional nightmare gallops roughshod echoing through the dark alleys of his
mind. There is always something panting behind Jefferson,
something that darts off into the shadows whenever he turns around to confront
it. For one who has experienced trauma stacked upon trauma Jefferson
has been remarkably resilient, (a quality the Australian Army craves). When it
comes to resilience Jefferson, by the grace of
God, is one of the fortunate ones, as General Cantwell writes,
Not everyone who experiences the traumas of war will develop PTSD, but in some people, especially if the trauma is intense, the horror and fear can become imprinted in the memory. This is a natural process; it’s okay not to feel okay.
Jefferson is safe now and he is feeling okay.
 “African-Caribbean” is a term used in
 Thomas Jefferson, in an 1813 letter to James Monroe
 Major General John Cantwell, Exit Wounds: One Man’s War of Terror, Melbourne University Publishing, Kindle version 2013.
 The Epistle of Paul the Apostle to the Ephesians 6:12 (KJV).
 Major General John Cantwell, Exit Wounds: One Man’s War of Terror, Melbourne University Publishing, Kindle version, 2013.