DAY 3 – Thursday 24 April 2014 (Collector To Canberra – The Run Home)
After the media commitments with the Prime Minister were complete, we saddled up and began the ride towards Canberra and our final destination on this huge adventure; the Australian War Memorial.
I sat at the back of the pack with Robbie and watched as the PM was swamped by the sponsor’s representatives. Slowly but surely, the Veterans had their chance to speak to him. Our roll into Canberra was slow and steady as Mr Abbott controlled the speed up front with Scott.
As we descended along the Federal Highway towards Northbourne Avenue, we were joined by Mrs Janny Poate (mother of Private Robert Poate – KIA in Afghanistan 29 August 2012) who was riding her mountain bike. She was ushered and helped to the front of the pack to speak with the PM. One of the most memorable moments of the ride was seeing Jeffro pushing Mrs Poate past us and alongside Mr Abbott.
As we neared the last few kilometres of the ride, Robbie and I moved to the front and flanked the Prime Minister. We were to escort him in the AWM and it was during this time I was able to speak with Mr Abbott. I didn’t hold back. I spoke not only of my struggles, but also that of my friends and the many others that have not been able to gain access to the appropriate support services. He was receptive of what I was saying and also very aware of the steps DVA was taking to help veterans access support services once they have discharged from the ADF.
The remainder of the ride was quite relaxed with Mr Abbott speaking quite candidly and without reservation. Our short leg up to the AWM sparked the PM’s desire to attempt a breakaway sprint which I quickly reigned back in. We rounded the final round-a-bout and entered the grounds of the Australian War Memorial to the waiting crowd of supporters and media.
At the end of the post-ride event/function I went home with my Wife and Parents and returned to the AWM a couple of hours later for a guided tour with some of the other other riders. I was still excited but very fatigued by this stage. With ANZAC Day the following day I was knew I wasn’t going to get much rest in the next 24 hours. Before heading home to get ready for the night’s function I had to swing by my work to pick up the on-call phone (yep…winning at staff retention!).
A huge thank you to my Wife, Parents, Sister, Brother-In-Law, Nieces and friends for their support leading up to and during the ride.
Thank you to Soldier On: John, Tony, Dion, Shane, Anna, Robbie, Pearl and Danielle.
Thank you to Scott Sunderland and the other members of Team Soldier On.
Thank you to Matthew Connors for the awesome photos.
Thank you to The Citadel Group, Mittagong RSL, Bushranger Hotel, Australian War Memorial, Dr Nelson, the Prime Minister and of course all the people that waved at us while we were riding!