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.