Organisers hope more than 400 people will take part in this year’s Walking Off the War Within Brisbane event on the Redcliffe peninsula on May 21.
The walk aims to raise awareness of mental health challenges faced by veterans and emergency services personnel.
It’s being organised by Elimbah’s Lee Duke in memory of his mate and fellow veteran Nathan Shanahan and in a bid to show other veterans and former emergency services personnel they’re not alone in battling the war within.
It is for all fitness levels, with 5, 10 and 20km options. Participants can choose to carry a pack, if they wish.
Nathan, pictured, did his own walk in 2015, 400km from Mildura to Adelaide, carrying a 20kg pack to raise money for and awareness of mental illness.
He lost his battle in 2016 and friends and family held the first walk in his honour the following year.
Lee and Nathan did basic training at Kapooka together in 2005, were then posted to Puckapunyal and then Darwin.
Lee was subsequently deployed to the Solomon Islands and Afghanistan.
Nathan went on to be a fire fighter after he left the Army.
“He was a really tough guy and that’s probably the hardest thing. It really knocked me for six,” Lee says of Nathan’s death.
“Everyone is affected in different ways and we need different ways to live with it.”
The motto is ‘Share the Burden. Walk as One’.
Lee says more than 300 people, including Nathan’s parents, took part in last year’s inaugural Brisbane event at Clontarf and he’s hoping even more will join in this year.
“I was blown away – 90 per cent of the people I didn’t know,” he says. “I got a bit emotional when I got up to speak,” he recalls.
Lee says it was a great community event, with defence and emergency services represented, and was a chance to tell Nathan’s story while outlining the help available for those dealing with mental health challenges as a result of their service.
As participants made their way along the Redcliffe foreshore, they caught the attention of passersby who wanted to know what it was all about.
This gave organisers and participants the chance to spread the key message about the mental health of veterans and emergency services personnel.
“People asked if they could donate,” he recalls.
“A few veterans said afterwards it was great and they got a lot out of it.”
The 20km walk takes 3-4 hours, so it is an opportunity to chat with fellow walkers, share stories and get to know each other.
“To show support for veterans and emergency services and also for veterans or emergency services themselves to share their burden,” Lee says.
He says it is also an opportunity to remove the stigma from mental health and make it easier for those needing help to reach out.
The Brisbane walk is on May 21 from Clontarf’s Pelican Park at 8am. You can register online.
It is free to take part thanks to sponsors: Deception Bay RSL Sub-Branch, Image Property, The Belvedere, Vibe Electrical and Refrigeration, JT Press, Pacific Integrated Maintenance Solutions, ACIO and Moreton Bay Regional Council.
Anyone wanting to make a donation is welcome to, with proceeds helping cover costs and going to local service providers such as Trek 2 Health which assist people living with mental health challenges.
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