I am saddened to inform you that Lieutenant Colonel Mike Harris passed away [on Wednesday night] after a long battle with cancer.
Mike was among our best and was a close friend to many.
His passion for our corps and dedication to service was, to my eyes, without peer.
In true Mike fashion he fought hard to the end.
LTCOL Mike Harris will be farewelled at Duntroon Chapel in Canberra on 30 January at 10.30am.
The service will be followed by refreshments at Duntroon officers‘ mess.
Dress is suit, full medals and cloth cap (Mike-style). Similar formal wear for ladies.
Rest in peace, Mike.
Lieutenant Colonel Haydn Barlow
Head of Corps AAPRS
A video made for and with Mike Harris in the final weeks of a life that touched many.
The Last Word
Lieutenant Colonel Mike Harris on the importance of mateship
At 48, with a wife, two teenage children, a dog, mortgage and a project car, I was forced to confront the issues of depression and death. A year on, I was able to celebrate my 49th year.
In this time I have never been so proud of my courageous wife and two beautiful teenage children as they have helped me deal with the challenges of chemotherapy and the emergence of more troublesome cancers.
Sadly that’s where the miracles end.
To borrow a golf metaphor, I am about to finish my round with a better-than-expected result and I’m heading for the clubhouse for some relief.
Not only has my family made me feel loved and cared for during this final, palliative phase of treatment, a group of friends has been quietly and selflessly showing what true mateship is.
Joined by colleagues, and even complete strangers, they conspired, with my wife’s consent, to resurrect my British sports car under the cover of darkness and without my knowledge.
I find myself asking, why did they do it?
They all had different motivations but a constant theme – mateship.
These people from Army, Navy, Air Force, APS and the general public literally rebuilt my car with their bare hands, dipped into their pockets for loose change, used all their spare time and scoured the country (and the UK) to find the parts – and wanted nothing for it.
It is humbling. I am lost for words.
In a race against the finish of my health battle, they beat the odds and surprised me with the keys to my Stag a couple of weeks ago.
I hope you are picking up a theme here.
We all joined the ADF to be part of something bigger than ourselves.
We put ourselves in harm’s way in order to protect our way of life, honour the Anzac tradition and make the future better for our children and future generations.
My car has become a metaphor.
Notoriously unreliable, it’s a bugger to work on, and in 1987 was the most frequently stolen car in the UK.
But now, my talented friends have turned the car from a curbside relic to a vehicle that will hold enduring sentimental value.
It’s a priceless gift to my family.
It has shown me the immense good and selflessness in our people.
I am most proud that it brought people together, and I am humbled that they did it for me.
I quietly wish there was more time to thank my friends and to enjoy the fruits of their labours.
I never thought I would see it going again.
On Sunday, November 12, I was liberated from my palliative care facility, surprised my understanding wife with a long lunch for all my mates, and drove through the streets of a quiet NSW suburb listening to the heartbeat of a 1970s British classic V8 as I basked in the sunlight of a warm spring day with the sun on my face.
I got to share laughs with my mates, smell the aroma of burnt oil, fresh car wax and 98 octane being turned into sweet smoke as I gripped the wheel and pressed the pedal for the first and likely last time.
This was a good day.
This is what life is all about.
Mateship, love, compassion.
As I enter my final battle, I offer this advice: Take a positive view, not a negative one. Be proud. Take your holidays, spend time with your families, do something for your mates and live life. We have a world full of amazing, compassionate people – please make sure that spirit continues.
For now, I’m heading out to tee off on a different course.
See ya later.
From ARMY Newspaper, December 2017