103-year-old WWII veteran, Sergeant Bert Le-Merton passed away peacefully, surrounded by family, on the evening of the 6th of December.
Sergeant Bert was a remarkable figure in the veteran community, advocating for the health and wellbeing of Australia’s contemporary veterans.
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 96 kilometres, the length of Kokoda, as part of 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. He continued to March On, reaching another significant milestone on his journey by doubling his original goal and reaching 192 kilometres and raising more than $110,000 by 12 February 2021.
By 31 March 2021, Bert had clocked a total of 419.15km walked and $112,223 raised to help prevent veteran suicide.
As Patron of Soldier On’s March On challenge, Sergeant Bert inspired a nation to take action against veteran suicide and encouraged a national conversation that stretched far beyond his fundraising activities.
Last month, Sergeant Bert was recognised for his tremendous contribution to the veteran community and was named as a finalist in the 2022 Senior Australian of the Year Awards.
Upon receiving the award, Sergeant Bert said this is an extraordinary acknowledgement for an ordinary bloke.
“It is a great honour to be named as a finalist for Senior Australian of the Year. I’m just an ordinary bloke and we need more ordinary blokes and ladies to get involved and make a change. I hope I can encourage others to champion a cause they are passionate about,” Sergeant Bert said.
Soldier On CEO, Ivan Slavich, said the organisation has been honoured to have Sergeant Bert Le-Merton, an Australian legend, support the March On campaign.
“Sergeant Bert was a true Australian hero. From his bravery and sacrifice during World War II, to his incredible efforts to support his fellow veterans, Bert embodied the Australian spirit. Bert displayed tremendous passion and commitment in everything he did, and his achievements have been recognised and celebrated far and wide. Bert’s legacy will continue to impact the veteran community and all those who had the pleasure of sharing in his phenomenal life,” Mr Slavich said.
“Our deepest condolences go to Bert’s wonderful family, as well as our heartfelt thanks for all that they have done to support our veteran community. We will continue to follow Bert’s example, and ‘just keep walking around the block’, Mr Slavich added.