March On: Walking for Waide

As the sun rose on another March 1st, Soldier On Ambassador George Sutton laced up his shoes, his heart full of memories and determination. For George, March On isn’t just a physical feat to raise awareness. It’s a pilgrimage of remembrance, a testament to resilience, and a beacon of hope as he dedicates days throughout March to loved ones he and others have tragically lost. 

George joined the Air Force in 1988 straight out of school, inspired to enlist due to the influence of two ex-RAAF neighbours he had in his hometown of Newman, Western Australia. He went onto serve for 33 years as an Aircraft Technician, but also held roles in training, personnel management, and welfare – “some years enjoyable, some a nightmare,” as he recalls. 

For four years now, George has taken up the March On challenge, singlehandedly raising over $35,000 to date. It was two years ago that George discovered his friend Waide Duncan had tragically died at home. Waide had served in the Royal Australian Air Force for many years as a General Hand, Physical Training Instructor, and lastly as a Loadmaster on a Hercules Aircraft. Though he hadn’t died by suicide, like many veterans he had battled demons, endured isolation, and suffered from a profound lack of connection. 

From this tragedy, “Walking for Waide” was born – a March On team fuelled by love, remembrance, and soldiering on despite the grief that so many within our veteran community have experienced. United in purpose, George and his team members, including co-founder Shaun McGill, stride side-by-side, setting out every morning at 5:30am as a living tribute to those lost and a beacon of solidarity for those who remain.  

Last year their ranks swelled, even crossing state lines, as they collectively raised over $43,000. But for George, the journey is far from over. This year, he dreams of taking their cause national, inviting all who have lost loved ones in service to join their ranks, dedicating a day in March to walk in their memory. 

“Whilst the team is named for Waide, the ideology of the team is simply to remember,” says George. “If you have lost someone in this way, we will dedicate a day during the month where the whole team walks to honour their memory on that day.” 

Each step the team takes is imbued with meaning, each kilometre a silent tribute to the lives lost and the legacy they leave behind.  

On day four, George shared:  

“Today’s walk is dedicated to CPL Nathan Stratton. I had the pleasure of working with Nathan, a loveable larrikin, at 77SQN from 2011 to 2013. Whilst he was a bit of a larrikin there wasn’t many I trusted more with knowledge when it came to the FA-18. He was not only a tragic loss to friends and family, but also to the Air Force.” 

Day six was solemnly dedicated to the memory of SQNLDR Hardik Mehta, described by Goerge as “a highly intelligent, thoughtful, and quietly spoken man,” who had a young family when he passed away.   

Day 20 will be dedicated to George’s friend John Manson, who died during March On last year. 

But amidst the grief, there’s also hope, a flicker of light in the darkness. When George and Shaun walk together, they carry with them the belief that through collective action and commitment, we can build a future where no veteran feels alone, where every life is cherished, and where the bonds of camaraderie endure beyond service. 

With this belief, in addition to his remarkable four-year journey of fundraising for March On, George runs a fortnightly Soldier On Coffee Catch-up group, leads a veteran walking group every alternate week, and runs a Facebook community for medically retired veterans in the Newcastle/Hunter Valley area. His unwavering dedication to fostering positive change within the veteran community is inspiring. 

So, as the sun sets on another day of walking, George’s resolve remains unbroken and his spirit undimmed, for in every step lies the promise of a better tomorrow, where the fallen are remembered, the living are supported, and the legacy of service endures. 

“It is time for the physical health and mental health issues of our serving members and veterans to come out of the shadows and into the light of care and action,” George says. “March On brings those issues into the light and helps to raise money for one of the organisations at the forefront in providing help.” 

“At the going down of the sun, and in the morning, we will remember them.” 

And with each March On, we honour them all. 

You can support or join George and Shaun and the Walking for Waide team here.  


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Further reading

Gwen Cherne
Stronger Together
Love, compassion and support: Gwen Cherne talks about her mission as Veteran Family Advocate Commissioner  
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Soldier On participant Naomi knows the road to a successful civilian life can be rocky. She shares her...
Bec Jackson Kokoda
Reaching the summit
Soldier On Ambassador Bec Jackson on raising funds and conquering goals.