www.indopacificexpo.com.auThe 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 Le-Merton’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.

Sergeant Bert Le-Merton on one of his marches. (PHOTO: Via Soldier On)

A retired sergeant of the Mortar Platoon in the 2/13th Battalion, 20th Brigade, 9th Division of the AIF (Australian Infantry Force), Le-Merton looked for a way to help raise money to make the lives of contemporary veterans better. On 15 August 2020, Le-Merton 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, Le-Merton averaged 1.75 kilometres a day, completing his initial objective of 96 kilometres on 10 October 2020. Le-Merton 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, Le-Merton had completed total of 419.15km walked and $112,223 raised to help prevent veteran suicide.

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

Le-Merton with some of his decorations. (PHOTO: Via Soldier On)

Le-Merton’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,” he said.

Soldier On CEO Ivan Slavich said the organisation is honoured to have had Le-Merton 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,” 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,” Slavich added. Le-Merton 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 the nation.

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