Hundreds of people are expected to take part in the first Brisbane Walking off the War Within community walk at Clontarf on March 20.
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.
Nathan 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.”
This year, there will be four walks - the Mildura event was on March 13, the Brisbane walk is on March 20, then there’s one at Ballarat on April 24 and another in Darwin on May 1.
“The walks raise issues of PTSD within these organisations but in the community as well. It’s to let people know they’re not alone,” Lee explains.
“It’s also to remove the stigma. It’s OK to talk about it, share that load so you’re not carrying it yourself.”
The motto is ‘Share the Burden. Walk as One’.
Welfare agencies Soldier On, Defence Health and Open Arms will be there for those participants keen to connect or find out more.
“It’s about bringing that all together and showing people those organisations are out there,” Lee says.
The Brisbane walk is on March 20 from 8am. It will start from Pelican Park at Clontarf and make its way along the peninsula foreshore. Participants can walk a distance that suits them.
It’s free to take part, but registrations are essential. To find out more, visit the website.
Donations can be made and they will be used to help cover costs and passed on to local charities working in the field of men’s mental health and suicide prevention.
“The main goal is to have people there and to carry on Nathan’s legacy. To have people there on the day and for them to see there are people who care and there are other people who have been through it,” Lee explains.
“They can hear people’s stories and how it’s affected them and know they’re not alone. If one person gets something out of it, that’s a win for me.”
He’s hoping more than 200 people will take part and the event will grow each year.
Lee used to live at Mango Hill, so he knows the Redcliffe peninsula well and knows the walk along the foreshore is pretty special.
He’s looking forward to sharing that experience with Nathan’s parents on the day.
“I can’t think of any better place to do it,” he says.
Want to know more, visit the website
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