The 42nd poppy was for those who have died since serving in Afghanistan.
It was an emotional gesture for Martyn Kruck who, at age 41, finished 41 days of walking 41km a day at the Cleveland cenotaph at 4pm on June 12. Besides placing the 42nd poppy at the cenotaph, Mr Kruck alsoleft his dog tags.
Veteran Care Association president and chaplain Gary Stone officiated at the cenotaph offering a one-minute silence and benediction to honour and remember the fallen in Afghanistan. For Chris Lambert of Victoria Point, it was a personal moment of reflection to remember his son Matthew who died in August 2011. Mr Lambert laid the first poppy.
“No veterans come back unscathed. It boils down to the individual. There are organisations trained to care and rehabilitate but when you see what Martyn has done, I feel heartened and impressed by his efforts. I want to encourage him and give support,” Mr Lambert said.
It was no easy feat for Mr Kruck, who as a former soldier, still copes with his own demons.
“The walk has helped me to deal with those,” he said.
In the true spirit of mateship, ex paratrooper Steve Scanlon of Hervey Bay joined Mr Kruck for two days and returned to walk the final seven with him, to boost his morale.
“I called him to see how he was doing and he was a bit low, so I came back. It was the least I could do. We didn’t know each other to start with, but we had a lot to talk about and now we are friends,” Mr Scanlon said.
On the last day, the pair changed the regular daily route traversing Mount Cotton, Victoria Point and Redland Bay in order to finish at the cenotaph. He was joined in the last few hours by several other people.
Martyn’s father Stacey Kruck said he hoped Martyn’s walk brought some comfort to families who had lost their children to war.
Mr Stone said he felt overcome by the generosity of spirit with the walk which raised $10,000 for Veteran Care Association. He wrapped both Mr Kruck and Mr Scanlon in a quilt of valour, speaking of its symbolism for comfort, peace, healing, strength, gratitude and tears.
Mr Kruck enlisted in the Australian army from 1995 to 2013, serving in East Timor, Bouganville, Solomon Islands, Banda Aceh in Indonesia and Afghanistan. He said each place left its own emotional toll and he was ultimately discharged on medical grounds with post traumatic stress disorder.
Further donations can be made on 41for41.raisley.com crowdfunding site and on the Facebook page 41for41.