Sergeant Bert Le-Merton OAM, was a remarkable figure in the veteran community, advocating for the health and wellbeing of Australia’s contemporary veterans.
A retired WW2 Sergeant of the Mortar Platoon in the 2/13th Battalion, 20th Brigade, 9th Division of the AIF (Australian Imperial Force), Bert looked for a way to help raise money to help improve the lives of contemporary veterans.
So, on 15 August 2020, Sergeant Bert set out to walk 96 kilometres, the length of Kokoda, as part of the March On Challenge with the hope of raising $10,000 for Soldier On – a fundraising target which he surpassed on the evening of 14 August.
In the subsequent months, Sergeant Bert averaged 1.75 kilometres a day, completing his initial goal of 96 kilometres on October 10, 2020. Bert was greeted at the finish line by the Australian Federation Guard who lined his street in a guard of honour, a sign of gratitude for his support of our contemporary veterans.
Bert’s mission did not end there.
He continued to March On, reaching another significant milestone on his journey by doubling his original goal and reaching 192 kilometres and raising more than $110,000 by 12 February 2021. By the end of March, Bert had walked a total of 420km and had raised $112,223 to help prevent veteran suicide.
As Patron of Soldier On’s March On challenge, Sergeant Bert inspired a nation to take action against veteran suicide and encouraged a national conversation.
Because of his tremendous contribution to the veteran community, Bert was named as a finalist in the 2022 Senior Australian of the Year Awards in November 2021 at the age of 103, and was posthumously honoured with a Medal of the Order of Australia (OAM) in January 2022.
Sergeant Bert Le-Merton passed away peacefully, surrounded by family, on the evening of the 6th of December. This Rat of Tobruk was an inspirational figure who’s selfless actions and unwavering care for those in need helped to further the conversation of veteran welfare.
The Soldier On team will hold true to Sergeants Bert’s example. We will hold true to his unwavering commitment to our veteran community. Together, we will help prevent veteran suicide.
A self-proclaimed “ordinary bloke”, that achieved extraordinary things in service of his fellow Australians.
Thank you for your service.
Rest in peace, Sergeant Bert.