Remembering Sgt Matthew Locke MG

Sgt Matthew Locke MG was with the Australian Special Air Services Regiment (SASR) when he was killed in action in Afghanistan on 25 October 2007. Following his death, Australia would come to learn about Matt and how he was a family man, a career soldier who was one of our finest and just generally a top bloke.

But his family, who conceded at the time of his death they thought Matt was invincible, remember him differently.

Matt was the “baby of the family”. The youngest of six children to Norm and Jan Locke, Matt had two older sisters, Belinda and Debbie and three older brothers, Wayne, Rowan and Nick.

His sister Debbie says being the youngest of the family, all the brothers and sisters kind of thought Matt was theirs and he was very much loved. His death left a gaping hole in the family and Debbie admits there isn’t a single day that passes where they don’t think of Matt.

He was also the last to leave home, leaving a special imprint in his parents’ lives. Matt was extremely close to his parents. His dad told a journalist not long after his death that they were “as close as 40 thieves,” and Matt worked with his father for two years before enlisting in the Australian Army on 11 June 1991, at just 17 years of age.

There is no denying Matt had found his calling in life. He excelled in his career as a soldier and in November 1997 successfully completed the gruelling SASR selection course. He was also awarded the Medal for Gallantry in December 2006 for repeatedly exposing himself to intense rifle and machine gun fire to stop his patrol from being overrun. The Medal for Gallantry is awarded for bravery and is the third highest award in the Australian honours system.

But if the Army was his calling in life, school certainly was not.

In between bouts of laughter and a few tears shed, Debbie recalls how Matt was incredibly smart but hated school. Perhaps the best way to describe him is as bit of a scallywag.

Debbie recalls the story about how one day Matt disagreed with his teacher, so he picked up his table, turned it around to face the back of the room and then sat down with his back towards the teacher. “He thought his teacher was a bit of a fool,” Debbie says while laughing, “so I guess he didn’t want to face her.”

It would seem even from a young age, Matt had a strong set of values that he would live by during all his days. Not only would these values help him excel as a solider, but they were probably part of the reason why he was so well-liked.

“Everyone loved Matt,” says Debbie. “He was a really, really good person.”

But his strong values meant his work as a soldier – the places he would visit and the people he would meet – had a profound impact on him.

“Matt was deployed to East Timor in 2001 and when he came back he kept saying how he wished the Timorese people had the same chance at life and the same freedoms we have in Australia,” explains Debbie.

After Matt’s death, Debbie knew she had to continue his work of doing good for others and set up The Grub Club in 2008 in his honour. The Grub Club assists children in East Timor obtain an education. So far it has paid for volunteer teachers to be trained and for a school facility to be built.

The following year the first annual Sgt Matthew Locke MG Charity Match was held in Matt’s home town of Bellingen. At the time, the captain of the Army Thunder football team, who also grew up in the Bellingen area and was a special forces soldier, presented the Locke family with the idea of the Army Thunder football team taking on local Bellingen Magpies in a charity match – and they loved it.

It is hard to believe this Saturday players will take the field for the 9th annual Sgt Matthew Locke MG Charity Match. Money raised from this year’s event will go towards Soldier On, as well as The Grub Club, Bellingen-Dorrigo Junior Rugby League Club and Fernmont RFS.

“This charity match is a place for the general community to come together with the defence community and honour Matt’s memory and service, and pay tribute and thanks to all our veterans. It’s also about building on Matt’s legacy,” says Debbie. “It’s special to be able to help others in Matt’s name. He would probably think we are crazy for running the event each year, but I also think he’d like it.”

The war in Afghanistan may have been the longest conflict in Australia’s history but for Debbie, Matt’s other brothers and sisters, his wife Leigh-Ann and son Keegan, the impact from the war is felt for much, much longer.

If you are in the area or nearby, pop in to enjoy the celebrations, honour the memory of Matthew Locke and his sacrifice for Australia, and raise money for charities including Soldier On.

Details about the 9th Annual Sgt Matthew Locke MG Charity Match

Date – Saturday, 25th February 2017

Location – Bellingen Park

Time – Gates open at 11am. Main game starts about 6pm (Army Thunder Vs Bellingen Magpies)

Cost – $7 per person

For the first time this year, games in the lead up to the big match will see the Navy Tridents and the Air Force Jets take on local teams.

Soldier On launches K9 Support Program

Media Release

Tuesday, 14th February 2017

Soldier On launches K9 Support Program to assist veterans with everyday tasks

• Mrs Linda Hurley, Co-Patron of Soldier On, and His Excellency General The Honourable David Hurley AC DSC (Ret’d), Governor of New South Wales, today officially launched Soldier On’s K9 Support Program.
• Program aims to assist veterans experiencing anxiety, hypervigilance, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder or a physical disability with everyday tasks.
• Pilot program launched in ACT and NSW with hopes of a national roll out at a later date.

Mrs Linda Hurley, Co-Patron of Soldier On, together with His Excellency General The Honourable David Hurley AC DSC (Ret’d), Governor of New South Wales, today officially launched Soldier On’s K9 Support Program.

The program aims to assist veterans experiencing anxiety, hypervigilance, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder or a physical disability with everyday tasks.

Mrs Hurley commented: “I am honoured to launch the K9 Support Program. I know the importance of supporting our servicemen and women when they have returned home from operational service and the stresses that this can place on family life. This Program will assist them make the transition to everyday life, and re-engage with the community through the care and training of their service dog. This is a very strong step to help people to take control and rebuild their lives.”

A pilot of the program will be rolled out in the ACT and NSW, with hopes of a national roll out at a later date. Rob Marshall, National Services Director at Soldier On says the new initiative will complement Soldier On’s other services, including psychology support and social connected programs and activities.

“Soldier On is excited to launch our K9 Support Program because we have seen first-hand the difference service dogs can make in the lives of veterans impacted from their service to our country,” says Rob Marshall.

“These amazing dogs can be trained to enter a room and make sure it is empty before a veteran walks in, stand in front of a veteran and create a protective barrier and even provide physical contact to a veteran if they are experiencing a nightmare – these are tremendous benefits for veterans impacted by mental health issues and can significantly help them with everyday tasks.”

The program is being delivered to Soldier On by Integra Service Dogs Australia, which is run by two passionate and dedicated volunteers, Ken LLoyd and Ben Johnson. Ben explains that the program has been developed in partnership with an accredited service dogs provider and has been designed to ensure maximum benefits for veterans.

“As part of the program, veterans will be trained as dog handlers and will in turn train their own service dog. This program can have huge benefits for veterans, even reducing their medication in some instances,” says Ben Johnson.

Service dogs will be provided to veterans as part of the program but in some cases veterans can bring their own dog to the program, subject to suitability.

The pilot program kicks off in Canberra and Sydney with up to eight veterans taking part. The program will work side-by-side, and in addition to, a veteran’s psychological treatment.

To learn more about Soldier On visit http://soldieron.org.au

Media Contacts: Nicole Thomson-Pride, nicole.thomson-pride@soldieron.org.au, 0428 076 773

Connecting Students with Modern-Day Veterans this Anzac Day

a soldier's medals

This Anzac Day, Soldier On is looking to partner with schools around Australia to connect our younger generations with our modern-day veterans.

Students often learn about the brave men and women who fought for and served Australia in WWI and WWII. While these veterans will always have a special place in our hearts and history, Soldier On believes students will also benefit from hearing stories from our modern-day diggers.

Connecting students with modern-day veterans

To help connect students to our veterans of today, Soldier On has developed an Anzac Day Pack for Primary Schools.

It includes:

• An Anzac Day assembly run sheet; complete with links to relevant songs, readings and the last post.

• A 90 second video of a veteran sharing his or her story as a modern-day veteran that can be played at Anzac Day assemblies.

• Classroom resources, including:

  • interactive video with a former soldier, sailor and airwoman answering questions about being deployed overseas;
  • interactive video with 16-year-old author, Jessica Love who is the daughter of a veteran;
  • a find-a-word;
  • true or false quiz;
  • links to books and songs;
  • information about how to email our troops overseas or send them postcards;
  • a recipe for Anzac biscuits;
  • a video teaching students how to salute; and
  • a sticker for each student.

We believe this ties into specific parts of the national curriculum for years Foundation to Year 6. Please contact us for more information.

Why get involved?

In return, Soldier On is asking primary schools to collect a gold coin from students to donate to Soldier On. The money raised will help Soldier On deliver vital support services to modern-day veterans and their family members. Our services include mental health support, employment and education support and reintegration support. These services focus on helping veterans and families overcome any impacts from their service, readjust to a normal life and build successful and happy futures.

Register your school’s interest

To register for our Anzac Day Pack for Primary Schools, please email fundraise@soldieron.org.au or call (02) 6188 6122.

Expressions of Interest for the 2017-19 Veterans’ Advisory Council

Nominations are now open for the 2017-19 ACT Veterans’ Advisory Council.

The Veterans’ Advisory Council allows community members to have a say on the issues affecting the veterans’ community in the Australian Capital Territory.

Council members must show an understanding of the matters that affect veterans and their families. Members should also possess the ability and motivation to make a positive contribution within the veterans’ community. The Council’s draft Terms of Reference can be found here.

The Minister for Veterans and Seniors is keen to focus on supporting young veterans and their families, especially in employment and transitioning to life after service in the Australian Defence Force.

Joining the Council provides you with the opportunity to make a difference in the lives of current and forner Australian Defence Force Personnel and their families.

Applications for the Council close on 10 February 2017.

To submit an application, please go to Smartygrants.

For further information, feedback or comments, please contact the ACT Office for Veterans and Seniors on 02 6205 2598 or email communityparticipation@act.gov.au

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