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On Trek to Remember

ANZAC Day is always a proud time for our nation as we reflect on the formation of Australia and the foundations of the virtues which we culturally hold so dear. The themes of honour and courage were evident in Monday’s College liturgy. I shared the story of Manhattan’s St Paul’s Chapel and the significant role it played in allowing so many men and women to cope with the catastrophe on 9/11.

I was fortunate to travel to New York in the Easter period and stumbled across St Paul’s almost by accident (my wife was looking for an outlet store). This tiny church (compared to others in New York) sits a stone’s throw from the site of the Twin Towers. When decimation surrounded it in 2001, it became “an oasis of heaven in the midst of hell.” Despite the carnage encompassing much of downtown Manhattan, St Paul’s had just one broken glass window. The parish leapt to the aid of those in need; supplying meals, refuge and support to NYPD, Fire Department, construction workers and distraught citizens. Its pews became makeshift beds; it’s prayer space transformed into temporary housing. Despite its insignificant size, it made a remarkable difference.

The small five million citizens of Australia in 1914 also made a remarkable difference to the world at the time of World War I, and left an almighty legacy for our nation to be proud of. Our boys were challenged to reflect, respect and replicate this example how they approach challenges in their own lives. The lessons learned from history, and from the most challenging times, can shape the people we become in all that we do.

Exemplifying this, some our students undertook the Kokoda Trail in Papua New Guinea during the holidays to gain an even greater understanding of what sacrifice, commitment and service entails. Kokoda has been compared to “running an endless marathon, carrying twenty kilograms worth of supplies in alien surroundings whilst being stalked by an unknown enemy.” The mindset required by our troops was not only concerned with one’s personal survival, but moreover that of their mates as well.

This year’s trip presented a number of learning experiences for both fathers and sons. Each one of the boys was brilliant in the way he responded to his own personal challenges. Riley sowed true grit to hike the difficult terrain without showing any signs of mental fatigue often being aware enough to help with other trekkers when they needed it. He learnt how determined his father is and how proud he is of his father. He also saw for himself where is grandfather fought the war and saw an Australian radio (dug up in an old artillery pit) used in transmitting messages back to Port Moresby. This was what Alf his grandfather did in the war (Signals man)

Aiden was sick one of the days and hiked into the night to reach our camp site at 7 pm. This was one of the toughest days on the track for all of us and to do it sick was a truly courageous effort. He also showed the determination he will need to reach his long term goals.

Sebastian exorcised the demons from last year where he was sick for 2 days, to hike through this trek illness free. He learned more about the locals and our porters and contributed to the group in a positive manor helping Aiden when he was sick by sticking with him.

Robert showed his maturity in reading an article written about his great grandfather at a service we conducted at Isurava memorial. Christian Arek was a PNG war hero and this article explained some of his exploits at Kokoda during the second world war. (there is a highway named after him)

Each one of the boys learnt for themselves how hard they can push themselves and the value of setting a long term goal and achieving it. It was a truly memorable experience and one that is well worth celebrating. Thanks again to our community for the assistance with fundraising for the Mates 4 mates Cause so far we have $13,000 dollars raised but will exceed the $15,000 dollar target when we finish our last fundraising lunch in May.

I can only marvel at the physical, emotional and mental strength displayed by our ANZACs not only throughout history but in modern conflicts as well.

Lest We Forget.

Matt Warr, Assistant Dean of Formation
warrm@atc.qld.edu.au