SERGEANT BERT LE-MERTON HONOURED WITH MEDAL OF THE ORDER OF AUSTRALIA

The late 103-year-old WWII veteran, Sergeant Bert Le-Merton, has been honoured with a Medal of the Order of Australia (OAM).  

Recognition with this award follows Sergeant Bert’s remarkable efforts raising awareness and funds to prevent veteran suicide as Patron of 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.

By 31 March 2021, Bert had completed a total of 419.15km walked and $112,223 raised to help prevent veteran suicide.

Sergeant Bert’s extraordinary efforts have been widely recognised within the veteran community and greater Australian public, including the award of Finalist in the 2022 NSW Australian of the Year Awards.

Sergeant Bert Le-Merton passed away peacefully, surrounded by family, on the evening of the 6th of December 2021.

Sergeant Bert’s son, Trent Le-Merton, said recognition with this award is a great honour.

“Dad would have said the award of an OAM was ‘remarkable’ or ‘extraordinary’. To our family, it is well deserved, and we are grateful that he was nominated and given such an accolade for doing something for such a worthy cause. This is a wonderful acknowledgement for a great Australian,” Mr Le-Merton said. 

Soldier On CEO, Ivan Slavich, said the organisation is honoured to have had Sergeant Bert Le-Merton, a true Australian legend, supporting the March On campaign.

“Sergeant Bert continues to be an inspiration to us all and is incredibly deserving of this wonderful award. Thanks to Bert’s commitment and tireless efforts throughout the campaign and beyond, we saw an enhanced national conversation on the issue of veteran suicide and the challenges that the community faces,” Mr Slavich said.

“Sergeant Bert set an example for us all and taught us the value in walking the walk for a cause you believe in. The Soldier On team will hold true to Bert’s example. We will hold true to his unwavering commitment to our veteran community. Together, we will help prevent veteran suicide,” Mr Slavich added.

Sergeant Bert will remain as the Patron of March On in 2022, continuing to inspire his fellow Australians to take action against veteran suicide and support those who have served our nation.

To register for the March On 2022 challenge, go to www.marchonchallenge.org.au

SOLDIER ON MENTOR PROGRAM RECOGNISED IN AUSTRALIAN DEFENCE INDUSTRY AWARDS

Soldier On’s Mentor Program has been recognised as Training and Mentorship Program of the Year at the 2021 Australian Defence Industry Awards.

The Australian Defence Industry Awards recognises excellence from defence professionals, organisations and businesses across the country and awards them a prestigious accolade for their achievements over the past year.

The Training and Mentorship Program of the Year award recognises the defence business that has most effectively capitalised on market opportunities and driven demonstrable growth through developing and delivering the most effective training and mentorship program for new industry participants or those defence professionals transitioning into new roles.

Soldier On’s Veteran Mentor Program sees current and ex-serving ADF members and their families matched with a trained, peer industry mentor, to build capacity and amplify their career development opportunities. Mentors can support mentees alongside Soldier On Pathways Officers to provide holistic and comprehensive transition support for their mentees and help in providing a platform for success.

Soldier On CEO, Ivan Slavich, said the organisation is thrilled to be recognised as part of the awards alongside esteemed members of the Defence community.

“Recognition in these awards acknowledges the achievements of all veterans working to transition to civilian life and the power of collaboration to provide effective training and mentorship,” Mr Slavich said

“Mentoring can have a significant impact on the transition experience, offering guidance and encouragement while supporting a sense of mateship and comradery. At Soldier On, our Mentoring Program has seen fantastic success for both our mentees and mentors alike. We are thrilled to continue this program into the future and enable more veterans and their family members to thrive,” Mr Slavich added.

Soldier On was also recognised as a finalist in the Australian Defence Industry Awards in the category of Veteran Support Program of the Year. The Veteran Support Program of the Year award recognises the veteran support program, association or organisation that has most effectively supported ADF veterans transitioning out of service and/or into new career opportunities post-service. Soldier On has previously been awarded Veteran Support Program of the Year in 2019, and again in 2020.

SOLDIER ON LAUNCHES VETERAN PATHWAYS PROGRAM IN TOWNSVILLE

Soldier On has expanded the delivery of its Pathways Program with employment and education support now available in Townsville.

Soldier On’s Pathways Program provides free practical employment and education support for veterans and their family members.

The Pathways Program currently supports over 3,200 participants and guides serving and ex-serving veterans and their families through the complexities and emotional challenges of transitioning to civilian careers.

From providing education support and guidance opportunities to building awareness among former service personnel of how their skills and experience can be applied in a corporate environment. The Program ensures every participant is well equipped to thrive in the civilian workforce.

Soldier On’s Pathways Program Director, John Hardgrave, said the organisation is thrilled to expand the Pathways Programs to support the veteran community of Townsville.

“In expanding the program, Townsville participants will have access to a national network of employment and transition coaches who work closely with veterans and their families to assist them in gaining meaningful employment following service or within the posting cycle,” Mr Hardgrave said.

“Together with over 170 corporate and government partners providing employment opportunities, as well as more than 40 education and training partners, participants will have access to the tools needed to identify their skills, retrain or upskill, and advance their career opportunities,” Mr Hardgrave added.

Soldier On CEO, Ivan Slavich, said the move to Townsville is an essential response to the needs of Australia’s veteran community.

“At Soldier On, we continue to adapt to meet the needs of Defence personnel, contemporary veterans, and their families. This means providing accessible services where they are needed for the entire Defence family in areas that truly support all stages of service, whether participants are still serving or have separated from service,” Mr Slavich said.

“Townsville has a long and significant history as an integral part of our nation’s Defence. Home to one of our nation’s largest veteran communities, there is a strong demand for diverse support services for our veterans, as well as their family members. We are thrilled to be able to address this need for support and assist the local community throughout their service and transition,” Mr Slavich added.

VETERAN COMMUNITY MOURNS AS SERGEANT BERT LE-MERTON PASSES AT 103 YEARS OLD

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.

SOLDIER ON PAYS TRIBUTE TO OUR VETERANS PAST AND PRESENT

On the 11th day of the 11th month at the 11th hour, each year Australians around the world will observe a minutes silence to reflect on the service and sacrifice of those who have died in wars, conflict, and peacekeeping operations, to protect our nation

. This year, Soldier On recognises the work of our ADF personnel who assist the Australian community, and communities around the world. From war zones to peacekeeping missions, natural disasters to emergency responses and so much more. In sharing these stories, we highlight and celebrate the fantastic work of our current and ex-serving personnel and the diverse operations that bring tremendous support to those in need.

Soldier On CEO, Ivan Slavich, said the extensive work of our personnel is increasingly evident in day-to-day life.

“This year, we pay tribute to the incredible efforts of our Defence personnel and the tireless support they continue to give to our nation in times of great devastation and uncertainty. Through floods, bushfires and a global pandemic, our Defence personnel have assisted the Australian public through great times of need,” Mr Slavich said.

“Remembrance Day is a day for the Australian public to show their respect and acknowledge the sacrifices of our servicemen and women. As a community, Australia needs to come together to ensure that our veterans and their families are adequately supported,” Mr Slavich added.

102-year-old March On Patron, Sergeant Bert Le-Merton, stands with our contemporary veterans to acknowledge their service to our nation.

“Whilst we remember today those members of our armed forces who have died in the line of duty, it is also so important that we never forget to care for our surviving veterans.”

Remembrance Day is a powerful and emotive historic day. For many, it is an important occasion to pause, reflect and remember loved ones. For some, it can sometimes bring unexpected memories or feelings. This year we encourage you to reach out to Soldier On for support and stay connected: getsupport@soldieron.org.au

102-YEAR-OLD SERGEANT BERT LE-MERTON NAMED NSW SENIOR AUSTRALIAN OF THE YEAR FINALIST

102-year-old retired Sergeant Bert Le-Merton has been named as a 2021 Senior Australian of the Year finalist in a ceremony held yesterday.

Recognition in these awards follows Sergeant Bert’s remarkable efforts raising awareness and funds to prevent veteran suicide as Patron of 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 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.

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.

“Sergeant Bert is an inspiration to us all and is incredibly deserving of this wonderful award. Bert is a true living legend. His bravery and sacrifice during World War II is admirable to say the least. His family have followed suit, with his children and grandchildren also defending our nation and communities on the frontline. It is clear that his passion for supporting our current and future generation of veterans and their families is close to his heart,” Mr Slavich said.

“Thanks to Bert’s commitment and tireless efforts throughout the campaign and beyond, we saw an enhanced national conversation on the issue of veteran suicide and the challenges that the community faces. We thank Sergeant Bert for his commitment to our veterans,’ Mr Slavich added.

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.

“I thank all those members of the public who have joined me by taking part in the challenge and making donations. The funds raised through March On will do a great deal to support the young men and women who have served our great country,” Sergeant Bert said.

Sergeant Bert will celebrate his 103rd birthday later this week.

Soldier On Welcomes Sky News Australia as Official Media Partner

Soldier On has welcomed Sky News Australia as its newest official media partner in 2021.

The partnership will build on the organisations’ existing relationship to further support Soldier On and enable current and ex-serving veterans and their families to thrive.

In partnering with Sky News, Soldier On will receive the additional support needed to increase awareness of its life-changing support services to more members of the Defence and veteran communities as well as the Australian public.

The partnership will also provide an important avenue for the promotion of veterans’ affairs and encourage conversation across the nation.

“Soldier On is thrilled to welcome Sky News as an official media partner. Sky News has been an active supporter of the veteran community and Soldier On for many years and we look forward to collaborating further through this significant partnership,” Soldier On CEO, Ivan Slavich, said.

“With this partnership, Soldier On will not only be able to enhance the delivery of its support services but also enhance the national conversation of prominent veterans’ affairs, bringing greater awareness and acknowledgement of the sacrifices made by our service personnel and their families, their struggles and their triumphs,” Mr Slavich added.

“At Sky News, we recognise the varied experiences of our service personnel and acknowledge the need for greater support services for veterans and their families. In partnering with Soldier On, we hope to enable more veterans and their families to thrive with positive and impactful assistance in all aspects of their lives,” Sky News Australia, Chief Executive Officer Paul Whittaker, said.

“We are proud to be partnering with Soldier On and will continue to shine a light on the issues facing our veteran community to encourage important national conversations and meaningful outcomes,” Mr Whittaker said.

VETERAN SUICIDE STATISTICS HIGHLIGHT NEED FOR TARGETED SUPPORT

On 29 September 2021, The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) released its fourth annual report on suicide among permanent, reserve, and ex-serving ADF members, including numbers of suicide deaths between 1 January 2001 and 31 December 2019 and rates of suicide from 1 January 2002 to 31 December 2019.

The findings of the report support previous discoveries whereby ex-serving male and female personnel are shown to have a significantly increased risk of suicide when compared to that of the Australian public. The report also provided valuable insights into suicide rates within specific groups.

Soldier On CEO, Ivan Slavich, said the report sheds a light on those groups who are in need of greater support.

“Every suicide is a horrific tragedy. Every statistic included in this report is a human life. These are our mothers and fathers, brothers and sisters, sons and daughters, and our mates,” Mr Slavich said.

“The conclusions drawn from this report will allow Soldier On to better understand the needs of the veteran community and we will be targeting our programs to address the needs of those groups which have been identified as most vulnerable, providing greater support where it is needed most,”

“Among many others, It is clear that those individuals who have separated from service involuntarily are at a significantly higher risk than those who separated voluntarily. This tells us that greater support is needed for those individuals whose transition was not of their own choosing, many of whom may not be prepared for such a significant change,” Mr Slavich added.

Findings of the report also indicate that personnel who have served for a shorter period of time are at a higher risk of suicide. This may be an indication that greater support is needed for our ADF personnel in the early stages of their military career. This may be further supported with statistics showing that our younger veterans are at a greater risk of suicide.

The expansion of this study to incorporate those who had served from 1985 to 2001 is also a welcomed inclusion and acknowledges the lasting impact that service can have on members of the veteran community. In some instances, individuals can experience significant impacts long after their service has ended.

Soldier On hopes that the findings of the report will inform the Royal Commission into Defence and Veteran Suicide on the shortfalls of current practices and the specific areas that are in dire need of change.

Soldier On intends to be an active participant in the Royal Commission and has established a working group to achieve this. Supporting thousands of veterans and their family members, Soldier On will work closely with its participants to continue to inform the Royal Commission and National Commissioner of the needs of our veteran community now and into the future.

Soldier On strongly encourages its participants to make a submission to the Royal Commission and share your experiences with those who will be leading this inquisition. For those who may not be comfortable submitting their views directly to the Royal Commission, Soldier On will be speaking with its participants to represent their views and experiences within its own submission.

In the meantime, Soldier On continues to advocate for a Veteran Wellbeing Centre in the ACT to accommodate the large number of service personnel and contemporary veterans in the region. Soldier On is currently engaging in discussions with stakeholders, government representatives and other Ex-Service Organisations to advance the delivery of support services across the ACT, as well as other locations across the country.

Soldier On Programs Shortlisted in Australian Defence Industry Awards

Soldier On has been shortlisted for the Australian Defence Industry Awards 2021.

The Australian Defence Industry Awards recognises excellence from defence professionals, organisations and businesses across the country and awards them a prestigious accolade for their achievements over the past year.

Soldier On has been recognised as a finalist in the Australian Defence Industry Awards in the categories of Veteran Support Program of the Year, and Training and Mentorship Program of the Year.

Soldier On is Australia’s only national, fully integrated and holistic support services provider, offering assistance to serving Defence personnel, contemporary veterans and their families. Currently reaching more than 5,000 members of the Defence community, Soldier On offers support services including a range of mental health and wellbeing services, employment and transition support and education programs, as well as activities, focused on connections with family, friends, and the broader community.

The Veteran Support Program of the Year award recognises the veteran support program, association or organisation that has most effectively supported ADF veterans transitioning out of service and/or into new career opportunities post-service. Soldier On has previously been awarded Veteran Support Program of the Year in 2019, and again in 2020.

The Training and Mentorship Program of the Year award recognises the defence business that has most effectively capitalised on market opportunities and driven demonstrable growth through developing and delivering the most effective training and mentorship program for new industry participants or those defence professionals transitioning into new roles.

Soldier On CEO, Ivan Slavich, said the organisation is thrilled to be recognised as part of the awards alongside esteemed members of the Defence community.

“Soldier On is incredibly proud of the programs that our team delivers to the veteran community, enabling them to thrive in all areas of their life post-service. The Soldier On team is committed to providing our veteran community with the recourses that will see them utilising their exceptional skills and experiences to excel in civilian life. Recognition as finalists in these categories is a wonderful compliment to the fantastic work of Soldier On’s dedicated and hardworking team members across the country,” Mr Slavich said.

“The sheer number of submissions, plus the ongoing and continued support of our of partners and judges, provides a great level of confidence for Australia’s defence industry and is representative of the depth of talent we have in our sector – I would like to thank all of those who nominated and each entrant for their submissions, and I wish everyone the best of luck on the night,” Defence Connect Director, William Magee, said.

The winners will be announced at a black-tie gala event hosted in Canberra on Tuesday, 7 December.

SOLDIER ON EXTENDS SUPPORT SERVICES TO AFGHAN SECURITY FORCES

Soldier On has expanded the delivery of its support services to include Afghan Security forces and their families, together with those who assisted the Australian Defence Force (ADF) in their development in Afghanistan.

Soldier On is Australia’s only national, fully integrated and holistic support services provider, offering assistance to serving Defence personnel, contemporary veterans and their families.

Currently reaching more than 6,000 members of the Defence community, Soldier On offers support services including a range of mental health and wellbeing services, employment and transition support and education programs, as well as activities, focused on connections with family, friends, and the broader community.

These services will now be made available to members of the Afghan Security forces and those who have played key roles in the ADF’s responses to this conflict, including those who have supported our troops in Afghanistan such as Interpreters.

Soldier On CEO, Ivan Slavich, said the decision to expand the provision of services reflects the need to assist those who have supported the ADF.

“The developments in Afghanistan pose new and resurfacing difficulties for those who have participated in this conflict and those who still carry the wounds of their service, as well as the families who have been impacted. This is not limited to those who served in the ADF,” Mr Slavich said.

“Many Afghan citizens have acted as key supporters and allies of our Australian forces in Afghanistan. These individuals face many of the challenges that our Australian troops have faced, including mental health difficulties, career uncertainty, and social isolation. As we have done with our Australian troops, we must support our veteran community,” Mr Slavich said.