Our Kokoda experience started when me and two fellow cadets Veronica Grima and Scott Jackson were selected by Blacktown RSL to take part in this once in a life time challenge. Our lives would never be the same after this trip and following is just a small part of what we experienced.
As we all flew into Papua New Guinea we all had thoughts on what had happened on that historic track. The history of what had happened made it a very solemn walk for me. For the months preceding the walk between training and school I read up on the history and how the plateau was captured and recaptured several times. I was so excited just to be able to walk in the footsteps where so many Australian soldiers had walked, fought and died.
The night before we flew into the track many of us wondered how we were going to cope, whether we would be able to make it or not, and at the same time the soldiers were always on our minds.
I’ll never forget that first hill, as it tested me both physically and mentally along with the rest of the track. The physical aspect was more than I had ever expected as the track was strenuous, both a massive detox for us all. Eating nothing but healthy food in the right balance, proportions and drinking water more than anything helped our body to return to a healthier state.
The mental part of the track was just as strenuous. Along the track at each village we stopped at, I saw children happier than any I’ve seen here at home and they had next to nothing, compared to what children have here. Those little children made me grateful for what I have no matter how little. On the first day when we reached the school we got to meet some of the school kids. I felt an overwhelming sense of joy when I saw the young boy smile when I handed him a soccer ball and a pump. The smile he had when he had the ball in his hands was thanks enough from him, but I should have thanked him for showing me how something so little can make someone so happy.
When we entered Isurava and sat and heard what had happened where we were sitting a tremendous feeling swept over me. The feeling of gratitude for what the men had done in the place where I sat. The place was just metres away from where a VC had been awarded to a solider by the name of Bruce Kingsbury had been. The service in the morning was truly touching and gave me a sense of awe to what the men had done. As Beth sang it hit home what these men had fought and died for.
When I returned home I found out that my brothers partner had just had their daughter, it was like a new life had been born with mine being restarted with the knowledge and humbling fact that I am so lucky just to live here in this amazing and beautiful land, a land that so many men gave their lives for in such adverse conditions.
Courage, teamwork, endurance and mateship the four words etched into our minds thanks to these brave men who fought for our freedom. Since I’ve been home I have a greater respect for this land I live in and love, thanks to these men and women I walked the track with and my carriers I will never forget what they did for us.