A Warrnambool family are making sure the efforts of a former special forces soldier don't disappear in vain.
Veteran Mitch Stutchbury, his partner Hayley Walsh and their daughters Amelia, 8, and Olivia, 3, are returning to Lake Pertobe on Sunday for Warrnambool RSL Active's Walking Off The War Within.
The community event is held in memory of of Ballarat's Nathan Shanahan, who trekked from Mildura to Adelaide before his death by suicide in 2016.
Mr Stutchbury will walk 20 kilometres at the Warrnambool leg of the event this weekend in honour of Mr Shanahan, and with the support of his extended family.
It's his second go at the trek, which he first took part in last year after returning to Warrnambool following four years in the army.
Mr Stutchbury said the walk was a challenge but there was a "real sense of achievement" once completed.
A former artillery gunner in Darwin's 103 Battery, Mr Stutchbury provided indirect fire support to other units such as infantry and armour.
He said while he made lifelong mates and saw parts of the country he ordinarily wouldn't have, it was difficult spending weeks away from his family with little to no contact.
Once back home, he said there was an "adjustment period" as he returned to civilian life.
Fortunately, Warrnambool's RSL Active provided a support network for Mr Stutchbury and his family.
"It has made my return a lot easier, meeting people that have similar experiences and providing a support network for myself and my family," he said.
"There is a real sense of community in the RSL Active group and everyone is always happy to help each other out."
Walking Off The War Within was first held in Warrnambool in 2019 and has evolved into a family-friendly carnival-like event.
Ms Walsh has been heavily involved in the organisation of the day, which she hopes will bring together veterans and the wider community.
"Mental health isn't something only experienced by those in the military and it's important for people to know there is help available here in Warrnambool," Ms Walsh said.
"We also want to help people better understand what veterans are. They're not just those who served in World War II or Vietnam, a veteran is someone who served in the military and whether they've done active service in deployment or not, they've all had their experiences."
Ms Walsh said Sunday's event would see a number of stall holders promoting the region's mental health services, a sausage sizzle lunch, live music and children's entertainment.
She said it was about bringing people together while ensuring "the efforts of Nathan Shanahan don't disappear in vain".
"While Nathan sadly lost his battle, he made a real difference in people's lives and we want to keep that going," she said.
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