Darwin man Kirby Stocks will be taking a bit more than a casual stroll on May 25, walking all the way to Katherine.
The former Australian soldier is trekking more than 300 km to raise money and awareness for post traumatic stress disorder.
“I am a local business owner and former Defence member, and I am committing myself to the walk in order to raise much-needed funds for Whiskey’s Wish, an Australian charity that trains and supplies support dogs to help veterans and emergency support personnel suffering from PTSD and other mental illnesses,” Mr Stocks said.
“I will also be kayaking 350km across the Bass Strait from Victoria to Tasmania in February 2018 for this cause.
“I have some experience in physical extremes, while suffering from both mental and physical setbacks suffered during my time in the Australian Defence Force.
“Whiskey’s Wish is a wonderful organisation that works with first responders and Veterans who have suffered as a result of their service to our country,” he said.
The community can head to the Katherine Club from noon on Sunday, May 28 for a barbecue to cheer Mr Stocks over the finish line.
“I am aiming to raise $50,000 towards this cause close to my heart, to raise awareness in the wider community for PTSD and Mental Health, and to help by raising much needed funds to train more companion dogs for people who have served our country and have been affected by PTSD or other mental health issues,” Mr Stocks said.
“They provide early intervention in the form of highly skilled service dogs as soon as possible after a person’s discharge date to have a new friend by their side through their hard and dark times.
“An animal is man’s best friend, always there by your side during hard times and giving support and their love during challenging times and comfort to their families to know they have someone by their side at all times,” he said.
“I served over 13 years in the Australian Defence Force as a Combat Engineer.
“My career started in 2003, when I decided to join the Army Reserves, becoming a full time soldier in 2004, and moving from Sydney to Darwin after my training, which I have now made my home.
“In 2006, I had a major accident, falling three stories and fracturing my heel bones, my back, and my wrist.
“After the accident, I was faced with the prospect of spending the rest of my life in a wheelchair and never being able to walk again, after spending ten days in Darwin hospital, with my multiple wounds being packed all this time and being told that they couldn’t help.
“I was then sent to Sydney where Doctor Andrew Wines put my feet back together.
“After spending eight months in a wheelchair, I started the long road back to physical fitness.
“Over the next ten years I spent a lot of time in and out of hospitals with other injuries to my body with more operations, though this did not put a dent in my ambitions of being an Australian soldier.
“With a lot of rehabilitation, including insertions of plates, screws, and donor bones, K wires, fused bones, to reconstruction of several joints and limbs throughout my body.
“With a positive attitude, I worked hard to remain in the Australian Army, proving that I can still be capable of doing my job. With a lot of dedication and commitment to work, I eventually made it to the rank of corporal before my discharge.
“I am and I always will be an Australian soldier,” Mr Stocks said.