102-year-old retired Sergeant Bert Le-Merton tracks 192 kilometres, twice the length of the Kokoda Track, for Soldier On’s March On challenge.
March On is a virtual walking challenge, calling upon Australians to walk 96 kilometres, the length of Kokoda, during the month of March to raise funds to help prevent veteran suicide.
A retired Sergeant of the Mortar Platoon in the 2/13th Battalion, 20th Brigade, 9th Division of the AIF (Australian Infantry Force), Bert looked for a way to help raise money to make the lives of contemporary veterans better.
On 15 August 2020, Sergeant Bert set out to walk the March On Challenge with the hope of raising
$10,000 for Soldier On – A fundraising target which he surpassed on the evening of 14 August.
In the subsequent months, Sergeant Bert averaged 1.75 kilometres a day, completing his initial objective of 96 kilometres on October 10, 2020. Bert was greeted at the finish line by the Australian Federation Guard who lined his street in a guard of honour, a sign of gratitude for his support of our contemporary veterans.
Bert’s mission did not end there. He continues to March On. Today, Bert reaches another significant milestone on his journey, doubling his original goal and reaching 192 kilometres, as well as more than $110,000 raised.
Soldier On CEO, Ivan Slavich, said the organisation is honoured to have Sergeant Bert Le-Merton, an Australian living legend, to support the March On campaign and enable those who have served, and continue to serve in the Australian Defence Force to thrive.
“As patron of March On, Bert is an inspiration to us all, to stand up and in his words “get off your saddle and let the war horse walk behind” to raise much needed funds that will enable Soldier On to support veterans and their families during these difficult times. We want everyone to March On with Bert. If a 102-year-old can not only do 96 kilometres, but do it twice, so can you,” Mr Slavich said.
Bert will keep walking through to the end of March and the completion of the March On Challenge, with the help of fellow residents at his nursing home.
“We have measured out the distance of 1.5km for us to walk during the month of March. We are going to do it together on a regular basis,” Bert said.
“If this bunch of oldies can do it, the rest of Australia can too,” Bert said.
With Bert leading the way, Soldier On is calling on Australians to pledge their support to the brave men and women who paved the way for the freedom and quality of life we enjoy today by walking a mile or two in their shoes.