Lakes Entrance student, Callum Greer, flew to Port Moresby this week and is currently battling the Kokoda Trail.
As of today, he is two days into an eight-day trek across the Owen Stanley Ranges.
He is one of six East Gippsland year 11 students to receive an Arthur Grassby Scholarship to walk in the footsteps of the many Gippsland soldiers who served on the Trail.
The scholarships are named after Arthur Grassby, 93, of Bairnsdale, who is a surviving member of the 39th.
Arthur was in B Company of the 39th, meaning he was in the first 120 Australians to face the first wave of Japanese (2000 strong) at Kokoda.
He survived that confrontation (many did not) to be later wounded at the battle of Isurava and have his body racked with malaria. He was just 16 at the time.
Scholarship committee chairman, Tim Bull, said the detail of Kokoda is largely unknown in the region, as is the strong Gippsland connection.
“Most of our community could tell you about Gallipoli, where we were basically fighting for the English in Turkey and lost, but few have a detailed knowledge of Kokoda, where we were fighting to defend Australia - on our doorstep - and won. Few also know many of the men came from this region,” Mr Bull said.
He thanked all those who supported the scholarships and give the children the opportunity to have a life changing experience.
“The recipients not only trek across the Trail, but also visit Bomana War Cemetery in Papua New Guinea, which is the final resting place for a number of Gippslanders,” Mr Bull said.
The students, in receiving the scholarships, will act as Kokoda Ambassadors on their return and visit community groups and organisations to tell of their experience.
The scholarships are made available by the fundraising of a local volunteer committee that has strong East Gippsland business and community group support.
To apply, year 11 students had to write an essay outlining what the Kokoda campaign means to Australia, what it means to them and also to touch on the Gippsland connection.
The scholarships are more than just sending the group over for the experience of a lifetime, it is also about educating a generation, through the essay application process, about a significant part of both our country, and Gippsland’s history. The applicants were then shortlisted for interviews and presented in front of a panel that contained three ex-servicemen and women, one each from the army, navy and airforce.
There were 68 Gippslanders who served in the 39th Battalion and many more in the 2/14, which were both raised from Victoria and were at the forefront of the campaign.
Mr Bull thanked all the supporters of the scholarships and said “we welcome with open arms any individuals or businesses who would like to support our efforts. The committee is made up of volunteers and we do this for no other reason than to educate the students and give them an amazing experience”.
Following are excerpts from Callum’s essay:
When fog would set in the Japanese would move forward undetected to get close to the Australians and spring a fight on them. The Australian troops pushed on doing remarkable things and continuing to show the four values of courage, endurance, mateship and sacrifice.
Corporal John Metson was shot through the ankles leaving him unable to walk. Instead of getting carriers, he pushed on crawling through the jungle for three weeks with bandages on his knees and hands. Due to Metson’s actions, he inspired the men in his squad by giving them the hope and courage needed to push through and not give up at any cost.
Metson was later found slaughtered in a village, along with others who had been wounded and left while those fit enough pushed on for help.
PICTURED: Lakes Entrance student, Callum Greer, flew to Port Moresby this week and is currently battling the Kokoda Trail.