Isurava War Memorial Dawn Service – Michael Johnson

During the Cairns Corporate Challenge Kokoda Track crossing, Michael Johnson delivered a moving service at the Isurava War Memorial. This is a copy of his speech…

I took on the Kokoda Challenge to try and gain an insight into what the young men who bravely fought on this track when through all those years ago. I also wanted to honour my grandfather who at just 23 years of age fought in the battle of Milne Bay not far from here.

It didn’t take long for the emotions to run high after visiting the Bomana war cemetery on the first day. What stood out was age of the young men that sacrificed their lives protecting the great countries of PNG and Australia.

Young men my age who at Brigade Hill, despite being out numbered charged a far superior enemy not once but twice. They did this for their mates and country. Over the past 7 days I have found myself asking the question what would I have done if given the same orders?

Young men like Bruce Kingsbury VC who at just 24 years of age took it upon himself to hold off an advancing enemy on the grounds where we stand today. He did this as his battalion was being overrun by the Japanese. Again I found myself asking the question what would I do if I was in the same position.

Young men my age who were ordered to retake the Kokoda Airstrip, just a few men against an ever swelling Japanese Army. Again young men showing bravery beyond their years.

I came here wanting to gain a small understanding of what these young soldiers went through 74 years ago and will leave with the utmost respect and admiration for all the soldiers who fought and sacrificed their lives for their mates and country.

What I have learnt over the past 7 days about the battles fought on this track makes me proud to be an Australian and proud to call the Fuzzy Wuzzies mates.