COVID-19 DIARY – SEEING IT THROUGH

March 29

The lockdown on Monday Night threw a spanner in the works of my plan to reach 100 kilometres by walking on the treadmill at my gym.

So I asked Karen if she would walk with me around our local neighbourhood. I was concerned about recording the distance accurately and covering a lot of distance.

As we walked along I would decide we would go just one more street over, we won’t go here we change direction down there. We won’t stop here, we’ll go up to the petrol station.

I was concerned we were only covering five kilometres the first night but when I went back and went step by step on Google Maps we had covered much more. Karen of course already knew that.

Karen walked with me as I limped along over those two nights. I’m not sure I could have done it without her.

The first night we covered 7.6 kilometres walking for two hours and twenty minutes.

The first night we reached the end of the Kokoda Track.

March 30

Tuesday we did the first proper day of the second snap lockdown. I worked from home.

There were eight new locally acquired cases in Brisbane.

The Princess Alexandra Hospital it was announced would go into lockdown.

“In light of recent cases of COVID-19 that have been linked to the ward 5D at Princess Alexandra (PA) Hospital, a decision has been made for PA hospital to go into lockdown today,” Queensland’s Metro South Hospital and Health Service confirmed in a statement.

“As a precautionary measure, we are continuing to test all staff that have worked in ward 5D at PA Hospital between midday Friday, March 19 and 4:00pm Sunday, March 28.”

Ward 5D is the PA Hospital’s infectious diseases ward. 

Two clusters of cases involved PA staff.

One linking back to the Doctor from the PA from March 12 that led to a landscaper testing positive on on March 25th and now a nurse who possibly got it from a returned traveller from India but had not had direct contact with the patient. The nurse from the PA and her sister had recently been in Bryon Bay for a Hen’s Party.

The Health Minister advised at the time of these cases not enough health workers had received their full vaccinations.

14,589 peole got tested.

For the first time masks were mandatory across the state.

Mater Mother’s hospital sent home staff, one of the new cases had been to the maternity ward recently.

With cases having travelled as far as Bryon Bay and Gladstone and with a few new daily cases it remained to be seen if the snap lockdown would end on Thursday night on the eve of the Easter weekend.

In Toowoomba one school had shut down since many of its teachers had recently been to Brisbane and were in lockdown. There was one case of COVID in Toowoomba hospital.

This virus has not gone away, it is circulating we know in the Brisbane area, at least, so people should be taking those precautions of the COVID-safe behaviours that we’ve been saying all along — keep your physical distance, remember your cough etiquette, wash your hands often, all of these things remain important,” said Australia’s Chief Medical Officer Professor Paul Kelly.

On Tuesday night Karen and I walked together again to complete my March On Campaign for the charity Soldier On which helps veterans.

I promised the walk would be shorter than the previous night but it was still 4.4 kilometres covered in 1 hour and twenty five minutes.

I got past my intended goal of 100 killometres with 103 kilometres covered during the month of March.

I would now rest up my hammy and wait for the gyms to re-open.

As we closed out the month, I absolutely couldn’t believe it but $270 had been raised by my donors which was very humbling and good news for our veterans who needed and deserved our help.

Defence Annual Report 2003-04 :: Chapter One :: Year in Review :: Operation  Anode :: Photograph 4

There were 6,268 participants in the March On campaign.

They raised $1,549,576 dollars for veterans and covered 483,060 kilometres.

Amongst them was Soldier On patron 102 year old World War II veteran Sgt Bert who walked 159 kilometres himself during the March On campaign.

Soldier On, was a not for profit charity founded in 2012 to support veterans by John Bale, Cavin Wilson and Danielle Clout. Bale had been close friends with Lieutenant Michael Fussell who was killed in Afghanistan. Three thousand veterans and their families are supported by the charity with a holistic approach to their physical and mental wounds with employment programs, health and wellbeing services, learning and participation activities.

-Lloyd Marken

ONE YEAR EARLIER: March 30, 2020

Jobkeeper is introduced in Australia and hospital ship UNSN Comfort enters New York City harbour. A field hospital is built in Central Park.

COVID-19 DIARY – MARCH ON

Meet Australia's own fund-raising legend walker - CONTACT magazine

March 01 – March 28

You may recall previously a post on the charity Soldier On and their patron 101 year old Sgt Bert Le-Merton who had raised $107,191 for the charity by walking 96kms around his local Sydney neighbourhood.

He reached that last September.

Last check he was at 419 kilometres. 

Founded in 2012, Soldier On supports 3,000 veterans and their families with a holistic approach to their physical and mental wounds with employment programs, health and wellbeing services, learning and participation activities.

In March they ran a campaign called March On, calling on people to cover 96kms throughout the month to raise funds for the charity.

Having recently dialled back my gym attendance I saw this as a good opportunity to get back in shape and raise funds for our veterans.

I knew I could probably cover about 3-4kms on a treadmill in half an hour. This meant I would have to regularly attend the gym to get to 96kms by the end of the month.

So on the first of March I went and got on the treadmill.

I played on repeat Bill Conti’s Going The Distance theme from the film Rocky. At different points in the music I would move from a walk to a jog to a faster job and back again and repeat for 30 minutes before cooling down for five minutes.

The treadmill told me I covered 4.04 kilometres that night and burned 255 calories in those first 35minutes.

Soldier On : Home

As you get older it becomes mandatory to stretch before you exercise and I made sure I stretched but being out of shape I found my body resistant.

I jogged on Monday the 1st, Wednesday the third and by Thursday my shoulder was in a lot of pain.

From jogging.

I rubbed deep heat throughout the day and pushed myself to go back that night on the fourth.

The whole 96 kilometres loomed over me, I couldn’t afford to miss too many days.

Friday the shoulder continued to bug me but it hurt less.

I went Friday night the fifth and Saturday and Sunday and Monday right through to Thursday.

An unbroken eight day stretch and the shoulder got better, I got fitter too.

I stopped listening to Going the Distance and just listened to regular podcasts from The Ringer while shifting speeds at different timed intervals.

The RAN in the Gulf - Two Years On | Royal Australian Navy

Day 10 I was on track with 33 kilometres done so I upped the distance to cover to 100 kilometres.

I never repeated that eight day stretch.

I missed the Thursday 11th of March as I was attending Triple X and needed to write my review after.

I jogged the 12th and 13th but not the 14th. No excuses.

I had a session on the 15th and got to 51kms right on schedule but did not jog the sixteenth.

From there I had a five day unbroken streak from the 17th to the 21st.

On the 18th of March I covered 4.51 kilometres in 36 minutes. Four kilmoetres in 31minutes before starting the cool down late. 299 calories burnt, an average pace of 7.5kms/per hour. The scales put me at 109.3kgs and a BMI of 33.7.

At this point I had been jogging consistently for three weeks.

On the 17th of March I finally got under 110 kgs on the scale for the first time in forever. I started wearing ties at work and swapped out my suspenders for a belt. It made me look like I had gained weight rather than lost it but I knew that belt couldnt’ have been worn comfortably earlier without the hard work so i enjoyed it.

Friday the 19th of March I got to my lowest weight during the month with 109.1kgs and BMI of 33.7.

I was starting to increase the speeds a little to burn a little fat, to cover a little bit more distance but not too much.

Why Do People Walk The Kokoda Trail | Adventure Excellence

Ninety six kilometres was chosen because it was the length of the Kokoda Track and as you went along in your goal different milestones told you how far you had travelled.

Menari 34.8kms. Templeton’s Crossing at 63kms. Eora Creek.72kms.

Templeton’s Crossing is named after Captain Sam Templeton Commander of B Company in the famed 39th Battalion. He was also affectionately known as Uncle Sam by some of the men.

Jack Wilkinson, a fellow soldier, noted the following in his diary in 1942:

“…Two long hills to climb.  Missed out on tea as I was with last of the troops.  Had a job to get some of them to make it..

‘Uncle Sam’ came back and helped me about half way up the last hill.  I was carrying four rifles and three packs and had doubts about making it myself. 

But ‘Uncle Sam’ insisted on carrying all my gear as well as that of others. “

Captain Templeton went Missing in Action during the Kokoda campaign. He never returned home. Another casaulty of war.

625 Australians died during the Kokoda Track campaign. The battle saved Australia from invasion.

Virtual War Memorial | Samuel Victor TEMPLETON

I reached Templeton’s Crossing on the 21st of March at the end of the five day streak. I was covering consistently 4.4 to 4.5 kilometres now in the same time frame where I had covered a little over 4 on the first night.

I had worked through the initial pain for getting back into exercise. I was now leaner, more fit and faster.

I had to complete seven sessions in the next ten days to reach my goal.

But on Monday the 22nd my left leg was bothering me with soreness. I decided to rest it.

Tuesday the 22nd I came back and did my best session but the left leg was still bothering me.

4.47 kilometres in 35 minutes to score an average pace of 7.7 kilometres per hour and burn 309 calories. I had jogged one minute longer by mistake on the 18th to reach 4.51kilometres.

I went and saw Two Man Tarantino on Wednesday the 24th and rested it again.

Thursday the 25th I raised in conversation with a colleague about maybe just walking the rest of the campaign but I had set myself a goal and really wanted to see it through.

Thursday I worked through the pain and jogged but made sure I didn’t push myself. I was back down to 4.32kms, 290 calories, 7.4kph but was grateful to see the scales tip at 109.3kgs having recently chowed down on the Brisbane Powerhouse Snackbar Menu Pizzas.

RAMSI chapter ends in Australia's Pacific story - Devpolicy Blog from the  Development Policy Centre

Friday morning I felt pretty good.

I was getting lunch at a burger joint when my legs got caught in between two chairs.

My body reflexively pulled up to get out of it and I felt my RIGHT leg explode and i let out a yelp.

I limped out with my lunch and back to work.

No matter how gently I walked, the back of my right leg will regularly send this tearing sensation to my brain and I would be unable to take another step for a brief second.

I was in pain.

Having never been an athlete i had no reference for what was happening.

This was more than a pulled muscle.

I struggled back to work but found only standing gave me releif. Sitting down the back of the leg became sore from the pressure and walking constantly agitated it.

I asked a very kind colleague to drive me back to my car and I’ve got to be honest, I wasn’t sure if I would be able to drive it. I pushed the chair back a little which made the leg rest more horizontally than usual and that seemed to not agitate it.

I went to bed with some deep heat and tried to rest it up.

Pilots from 75 Squadron RAAF are welcomed back to Al Udeid airbase by Group  Captain William ... | Australian War Memorial

My dream of jogging the whole month was over.

I had 19 kilometres to go in five days and no way I would be able to jog in the next five days.

I was not even sure if I would be able to complete the 100 kilometres.

I was so disappointed.

Because during that month many kind donors some of which remained anonymous had given money for our veterans in the belief that I would reach my goal.

I went back to the gym on Saturday and walked on the treadmill for 50 minutes and covered 4.37kilometres. This would keep me on track to get to 100kms by the end of the month but it was going to be close.

The next night I went back and found the leg was doing okay so I stepped up the walking pace and covered 4.70kms.

As I walked those two nights my leg would seize up but I found I was able to keep going.

On the second night I did seize up at one point quite a bit and my right leg went down. Fortunately I grabbed the handles, shot my left leg to the side off the treadmill and was able to drag my right leg up and keep going.

I haven’t seen a physio but it appears that I tore my hammy.

Why was I doing this you may ask?

There were 6,268 participants in the March On campaign.

They raised $1,549,576 dollars for veterans and covered 483,060 kilometres.

Soldier On on Twitter: "August 15 1975, Sergeant Bert Le-Merton was in  Borneo receiving news that the war was over. 75 years later, he will  #MarchOn as he begins his 96km journey

One of them was 102 year old World War II veteran Sgt Bert who walked 159 kilometres in March.

“If I can do it, you can too… so get up off your saddle and March On with me to support our veterans.” said Sgt Bert.

Another was a young veteran named Holly who had been diagnosed with complex PTSD and received help from Soldier On.

“Soldier On provided a safe space for me during some of my darkest times. I am forever grateful for the support I received following my diagnosis of complex-PTSD. Without Soldier On, I’m not sure if I would be here today.” Holly said.

These were words that galvanised me through the month when I felt lazy or tired.

Maybe ego was involved, I was pushing myself and seeing results and admitting to injury would derail all of that. I like to think of myself of someone who rarely sets goals but often sees them through.

But mostly i just wanted to say I did it for all of the people who were supporting our veterans

And for the veterans themselves.

Two people I served with briefly in the Reserves both did March On. One of them had been in the Regs and gone to East TImor.

Two friends I had at school had served.

One was a signaller in the Army and served in the Solomon Islands.

Another went into the RAAF and did two tours of Iraq.

They seem fine but they know as I do that many of our veterans are not fine.

Since 1999: 46 AUST soldiers killed on active service. 239 returned  soldiers have taken their lives. - Michael Smith News

They’re comitting suicide at an alarming rate and Soldier On is helping them as are many of other worthy charities.

For Holly, for Sgt Bert, for Captain Sam Templeton, for all of our veterans I wanted to see this through.

-Lloyd Marken

COVID-19 DIARY – 101 YEAR OLD SERGEANT BERT LE-MERTON SOLDIERS ON

Soldier On on Twitter: ""They all need care" Bert said and he is doing his  part and keeping fit in his quest to raise money for Veterans and their  families. Bert is

September 22

The Rats of Tobruk in 1941 denied Axis forces a sweeping advance through North Africa. Similar to the halting of the Japanese advance on the Kokoda Track a year later it is a significant part of Australian military folklore.

Sergeant Bert Le-Merton was there with the 2/13 Battalion.

2/13th Battalion (Australia) - Wikipedia

Now at 102 years young he has been echoing the achievement of Sir Thomas Moore and walking in the name of charity. Where Sir Thomas Moore raised money for the NHS, Sgt Bert has been raising funds for Soldier On, a not for profit charity founded in 2012 to support veterans by John Bale, Cavin Wilson and Danielle Clout. Bale had been close friends with Lieutenant Michael Fussell who was killed in Afghanistan. 3,000 veterans and their families are supported by the charity with a holistic approach to their physical and mental wounds with employment programs, health and wellbeing services, learning and participation activities.

ACA - Honour Roll

It’s a matter of interest to me that this organisation was assisting younger troops. That was very interesting from my viewpoint. It’s been a very interesting pastime if you like, for an old bloke. In my view what we’re doing is extremely important. What I find is the young troops, who are retiring, for whatever reason don’t seem able to fit back into civilian life. To my mind it’s glorious that so much has been raised because it puts Soldier On in such a fine position to help young members of the service,” Sgt Le-Merton has said.

After the war, Bert worked for the Australian Taxation Office for 41 years before retiring at age 61. Sgt Bert whose children and grandchildren have continued to serve the nation and the community set out to walk 96kms and raise $10,000 Australian dollars. Bert who is known as ‘The Walking Man’ around his local suburb averaging 1-2kms every day has reached his milestone and has just kept on walking daily. He is now at 107.3kms and has raised $107,191 from 92 donors of which I am proud to say I am one.

March On Sgt Bert.

While mentioning this great Australian and soldier and the ongoing work to support veterans in our community which is an interest of mine. I should maybe address recent news coverage of Australian special forces allegedly committing atrocities in Afghanistan.

War crimes have occurred since war began, there are some who have said junior soldiers are being thrown under the bus from a hypocritical command and politicians who sent them into fight a dirty war where these things were going to be inevitable.

Others have pointed to the culture in the special forces as a contributing factor.

My own take is that people do terrible things in war, at some point the potential to cross a line can occur.

If any Australian soldiers at any level are found to have done something illegal contrary to the law of the army then they should be held accountable by the laws they operate under.

Same for anyone higher up who encouraged, covered up or turned a blind eye to such things.

We hold ourselves to standards, we are accountable when we fall short of them otherwise it all falls apart.

But if we merely use these soldiers as scapegoats expect the military to become more disillusioned with their leadership.

For those who have come forward to tell their story and hopefully have truth come to light. If the allegations turn out to be true well then we owe them thanks for their courage. Some of them are no longer with us already.

-Lloyd Marken