After 18 months of cancelled events and periods of isolation, getting Warrnambool's veterans and their families back together has never been more important.
Warrnambool's Walking Off The War Within was close to being cancelled for the second consecutive year due to coronavirus restrictions but a new date has been locked in, giving veterans and their families the opportunity to get together in numbers.
The walk was started by Ballarat's army veteran and firefighter Nathan Shanahan, who walked from Mildura to Adelaide in 2015 to raise mental health awareness and start conversations, but tragically died to suicide not long after.
Mr Shanahan's family started Walking Off The War Within to maintain his legacy and encourage people to come together and share the burden of mental health.
Warrnambool RSL Active's Adam Kent said they hoped to host the event at Lake Pertobe this Sunday to coincide with the conclusion of Veterans' Health Week but a lack of answers from the state government meant the event was postponed until November 21.
He said Warrnambool City Council had been great in helping to organise the event.
The postponement will hopefully allow for larger numbers to gather at Lake Pertobe next month.
Mr Kent said it would be a whole family affair with jumping castles and other entertainment set up on the day.
Warrnambool veteran Chris Rantall said people were invited to walk up to 20 kilometres with or without a 20 kilogram pack, used to represent the difficulty of carrying the burden of mental illness.
"We invite people to walk as much as they can, even if it's only a few hundred metres," he said.
Mr Rantall, who has been open with his mental health struggles after returning home from war, said he would walk to help end stigma attached to mental illness.
"It's about raising awareness of mental health issues and helping to end the stigma that is unfortunately still out there," he said.
"Years ago I was guilty of it. Before I was diagnosed with post traumatic stress disorder, I had that mentality of 'just get on with it' but then when I got back from (Timor-Leste), I started having all these problems and I realised it wasn't like a broken arm that will just heal with time."
Mr Rantall said Walking Off The War Within was about getting out there, having discussions and helping others find the right avenues in order to seek help.
"Mental health is unseen so we hope to continue to normalise it," he said.
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