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Kokoda trek a matter of honour for Gary

22 November 2016

Kokoda trek a matter of honour for Gary

Caption: Gary and Brad prepare to conquer the gruelling Kokoda Track in honour of Gary’s fallen uncles.

Gympie business owner Gary James is in training to tick off a major item on his bucket list and honour the sacrifice of two uncles who were killed in Papua New Guinea during World War Two.

Gary, with his son Brad, has signed up for the 2017 Kokoda Anzac Trek, being organised by The Salvation Army’s Adventure Fundraising Program (AFP). Gary and Brad aim to complete the famous Kokoda Track, a gruelling 96km trek through rugged mountain terrain, to raise $5000 each for the Army’s Red Shield Appeal.

Their nine-day hike will also commemorate the 75th anniversary of the WWII fighting on the Kokoda Track, against the Japanese, in 1942. Gary’s uncles Joseph “Digger” James, 26, and Edward “Eddie” James, 19, were killed in combat on the track. Both were Privates in the 2/25th Infantry Battalion. Gary’s father, Stan, returned from PNG devastated that his brothers, with whom he was close, were killed. Gary and Brad will be walking close to the spot where Eddie was first buried, prior to his body being moved to the Bomana War Cemetery at Port Moresby. Sadly, Digger’s body has never been found. The father-son team will place some poppies near the trees where Eddie and other brave soldiers were killed.

“This is going to be a physically and emotionally challenging journey for me, but with every step I take, I feel privileged to be helping The Salvation Army empower hope, recovery and resilience for everyday Australians, particularly youth and those in rural areas,” said Gary, who has been attending Red Shield Appeal breakfasts on the Sunshine Coast for three years with a close friend and Salvos supporter, Laurie Clarke.

“It’s been a long held-dream to walk Kokoda, and I just needed something really worthwhile to get behind to say I’d do it,” Gary shared. “When I read The Salvation Army’s brochure about the Kokoda trek, I was immediately interested and felt that The Salvation Army was an exceptional cause to get behind and fundraise for. Not long afterwards I was talking to a customer, a national serviceman, who was talking about Vietnam and said that the only people who cared for them there were the Salvos. I decided then that I would do Kokoda.”

Gary also wants to honour his friend, Laurie Clarke, who originally invited him to attend the Red Shield Appeal breakfasts. Laurie is undergoing treatment for cancer. “Whenever my training gets tough I just think of Laurie and realise that my pain is nothing compared to what he is going through,” Gary said. “It’s what inspires me to put a greater effort in. He’s the one who introduced me to The Salvation Army and I’m grateful for that. He’s even sponsored me on the trek!”

Gary and Brad are both looking forward to what they see as an “exceptional” experience – conquering the Kokoda Track together, honouring Eddie and Digger, and making a difference to struggling Australians.

For more information or to sign up for the trek go to the Inspired Adventures website.

By Simone Worthing

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