Marching for a cause

Walking the 96km Kokoda Track has always been on Laurie Wallace’s bucket list.

CAPTIONLaurie Wallace walks his family dogs Patch and Zelda around their north Brisbane suburb. Story by Major Evita Ryan. Photo by Lance Corporal Luke Donegan.

A few years ago, some of his veteran friends travelled together and walked the nationally significant trail through the jungles of Papua New Guinea, but Mr Wallace couldn’t go with them at the time.

Then in 2021, after transitioning out of full-time service in the ADF and joining the APS workforce, Mr Wallace was diagnosed with atrial fibrillation, a heart condition that involves an irregular heart rhythm, sidelining any idea of walking the Kokoda Track.

When Mr Wallace heard about ‘March On with Soldier On’ in 2022, a virtual walking challenge to pay tribute to the sacrifices made by brave soldiers in Kokoda in World War 2, he decided to sign up to the challenge.

“I thought the challenge would allow me to replicate walking the distance of the Kokoda Track while raising funds for a good cause,” Mr Wallace said.

“I also used the 2022 challenge as a way to test my heart and make sure it was working properly. It took two years to rectify my atrial fibrillation.”

Now after completing ‘March On with Soldier On’ for a third consecutive year, Mr Wallace is glad to have returned to his normal walking routine with his dogs Patch and Zelda.

“By the end of March I was really tired,” Mr Wallace said.

“Every year I put the call out to my family to see who wants to join our team in completing the challenge and this year we had 10 members ranging in age from 28 years to 92 years.

“I set out with even higher expectations this year and, as the team leader, I feel a need to lead from the front.”

With everyone in the team responsible for setting their own goals, Mr Wallace set his initial goal at 400km, more than two round trips of the Kokoda Track, before extending it to 500km once he realised he was going to surpass that initial goal.

Walking up to 21km every day between March 1-31, Mr Wallace walked 521km in total and fundraised $3106 in support of Soldier On’s life-saving mental health services for veterans and their families.

As the formation safety officer for Headquarters 6th Brigade and assistance governance officer as an Army Reservist for Headquarters 7th Brigade, Mr Wallace would start each day walking around Gallipoli Barracks in Brisbane before work.

“Every day I’d get to the barracks by 6am and walk between an hour and an hour-and-a-half before work, then I’d walk our dogs at least 6km after I got home from work,” Mr Wallace said.

“On the weekends our dogs got to go on both my morning and afternoon walking sessions.”

Even Mr Wallace’s daughter, Charmaine, and her dog Loki joined his walking sessions on weekends, making the family fundraising challenge a habit, even in the pouring rain.

“While I normally walk our dogs every afternoon, I never normally walk in the rain,” Mr Wallace said.

“At least a third of this year’s ‘March On with Soldier On’ challenge was completed by walking in the rain.

“The weather could be miserable, with pouring rain and flooded pathways, but Patch and Zelda would have their heads up and their tails wagging. They loved it and I’m really proud of what our team was able to achieve.”


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