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Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Soldiers of Kokoda 2011

An epic journey undertaken by Australian soldiers who have suffered battle casualties from Afghanistan

The Papua New Guinea Tourism Promotion Authority is pleased to announce that from 13-22 July 2011 25 young Australian soldiers, who have been injured serving in Afghanistan, will undertake a commemorative expedition of the Kokoda Track in Papua New Guinea.  This trek is led by Brian Freeman, principle of Adventure 1000, and supported by General Peter Cosgrove AC MC who will join them during the trek.

The trek will end with a moving ceremony at the Isurava Memorial on the Kokoda Trail on 20 July 2011, acknowledging the sacrifices and efforts of Service Personnel.

Over 40 Australians will join the inspiring trek which will recognise the sacrifices of all Australian service personnel, serve as a part of the rehabilitation process for these returned soldiers and highlight importance of preserving sites like the Kokoda Track as reminders of Australian wartime history and individual sacrifice. 

All 25 soldiers participating in the trek are young men who have suffered battle casualties while on service in Afghanistan and the trek will be an important part of their rehabilitation.  The majority of soldiers are based in Brisbane from the Second Combat Engineer Regiment. 

One soldier, Damien Thomlinson, a member of the Elite 2 Commando Regiment based in Sydney, will be making the trek with the use of prosthetic legs, after suffering injuries from an improvised explosive device in Afghanistan in April 2010.   Also proud father, Ray Palmer, is walking with Damien and the soldiers in honour of his son, Scott Palmer, who was killed in a helicopter crash in Afghanistan while on duty in June 2010. Scott Palmer and Damien Thomlinson served together and Scott came to Damien's aid and saved his life during his accident.   

Brian Freeman, principle of Adventure 1000, believes this trip will provide families and friends of Australian Soldiers with the chance to acknowledge the sacrifices they've made in Afghanistan.

"This unique opportunity will allow everyday Australians to recognise the efforts and sacrifices of all soldiers including those who have recently served in Afghanistan.  Additionally, they will also be assisting the rehabilitation and well-being of Australian Soldiers wounded on Active Service in Afghanistan," stated Freeman.

The trek will also highlight the importance of maintaining the Kokoda Track as a central commemorative site in Australian war history and the importance of continuing to maintain these sites and support the local communities who fought alongside Australians during WWII.

In recent years significant investment has been committed by the Kokoda Track Authority (KTA), which has been supported by a joint initiative between the Australian and Papua New Guinea governments to protect the Kokoda Track, to improve safety and operations and contribute to local communities along the trek.  In the past two years the KTA has delivered over $185,000 in cash and supplies to the Kokoda Track Communities as a direct dividend of the collection of trekking fees from the increasing number of Australians taking the trek.

Peter Vincent CEO of the Papua New Guinea Promotion Authority comments:  "This epic trek of the Kokoda trail will raise awareness of the importance of the track for Australians and inspire others to follow in the footsteps of these brave Australian soldiers.  Completing the Kokoda trail allows visitors to get into the heart of Papua New Guinea, achieve an amazing physical accomplishment and mark their respect to Australian wartime history. However, many Australians who make the trek are not aware of the contribution they are also making to the development and livelihood of the communities along the trek and this is also an important part of the journey." /

About the Kokoda Track
Commencing at Kokoda Village, this trek follows the 96 kilometre Kokoda Trail to the south across the Owen Stanley Range to Ower's Corner.  The trekkers will be spoilt by a backdrop of pristine rainforest wilderness and pass by and interact with local villages providing a unique cultural perspective.

The track stretches through what is arguably some of the most rugged and wild jungle in the world. Built over 200 years ago as a commuting route between villages, the track became the scene of bitter fighting between Australian and Japanese soldiers in 1942.  It was on Kokoda that the myth of Japanese invincibility was broken for the first time.    Today battle sites are still evident throughout the jungle, marked by the weapon pits of the combatants.  

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The Expeditionist

The Expeditionist
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