Friday, 19 January 2018

For Harry...... a story of mateship and the Defence Family...... AN UPDATE.....

UPDATE

VALE LTCOL Michael Harris
I never met you but I would have loved to, and I will not forget you. 

May you rest in peace now. Thank you for your service and the sacrifices that service asked of you and your loved ones.  From all at Aussie Heroes, our love goes to his family and friends.  You all set a wonderful example of mateship and loyalty and the very best of what it means to be part of the defence family.

For those who are new to Aussie Heroes.. this was his story... 
.....

When I dreamed up the concept of sending quilts and laundry bags to the troops I never envisaged the depth of reach we would have.   Yes, we send quilts and bags to our deployed troops, but we also look after the wounded and injured and the families of the fallen.  When we can, we take on special projects like the quilts for the coalition Chapel in Kabul, or the quilts for the coalition hospital in Iraq.    There are many quilts that we make that have very special stories behind them, but often I cannot always share them as they are too personal.

This story is not really our story but it has been shared on Facebook, and in the service newspapers, and I wanted to make sure that the Aussie Hero Readers were able to read it as well, plus now we have our own little chapter to add.   It is such a special story of mateship and is a wonderful illustration of the strength of the Defence Family that I really did not want you to miss out on it.
.....

On Saturday the 25th of November I was scrolling through Facebook, as you do, and I came across this story.  Check it out here 

When I watched that video I was very moved.  So much so that I really wanted to contribute and the best way for us to do that would be a quilt.  I contacted Pete, one of the car restoring conspirators, to work out what would be appropriate to include on the quilt and to see if it was going to be possible to get one to our Triumph stag owner, LTCOL Michael Harris, or Harry as his mates call him.

As I said, I saw the story on Facebook on the morning of the 25th of November.  I happened to be in Canberra with my husband and we were scheduled to drive to Jugiong to meet up with friends who are posted to Malaysia from Wagga.   On the way there, the Facebook messages between Pete and I continued.   Once I had all the details I needed I started contacting volunteers to see what we could do in the very short amount of time we had.

Pete sent me the following crest... that of the Australian Army Public Relations Service.   I forwarded it on to Keryn and asked her if she thought she could re-produce it by Tuesday morning.   Didn't she do an awesome job!!!



Then there was the stag logo.  This I sent to Gail and she was able to create an appliqued version in time for Tuesday morning as well. 


I also contacted Kerri B and asked her if she could please create some embroideries for me - the Rising Sun and the Motto of the Corps in both english "Defend and Inform" and in Latin "Defende et Doce".

I also called Bridget and she dropped around to my home to see how many green and gold blocks we had leftover from the Aussie Pride blocks that were made over December/ January.   

As soon as I got home from Canberra on the Sunday afternoon I set about designing the quilt based around all the components we had.  

At 9am on Tuesday morning Gail and Anne H arrived and set to work. They had to trim the blocks to size and then put the various pieces together.  Sometime in the afternoon the quilt top was completed and the ladies were able to layer it ready for quilting and then it was quilted on the Simply 16 quilting machine.   Finally Gail stayed around to complete the binding and add a personalised label.   Harry's quilt was finished. 

On Wednesday I decided that this quilt could well be hung on the wall so I added a rod pocket.   On Thursday Pete had to come to Sydney for work so I drove the quilt to HMAS Kuttabul and passed it to him.   Now it was on its way to its new owner. 

I will come back to the quilt... 
......

Pete shared some photos with me for this story... the first is Harry holding Pete's beloved daughter.  Pete says that the arrival of his daughter was the highlight of this year but that watching Harry negotiate this awful journey to the end has been the gut wrencher. 


The University of New South Wales (UNSW) held a special graduation for Harry to celebrate and confirm his Masters degree a couple of weeks or so ago.  Pete said "It speaks a lot of the human spirit in times of adversity that the University went the extra mile to ensure he and his family could experience this proud moment. This is a picture of three blokes who have been mentored by a great teacher." 
In the picture below with Harry are Pete, LTCOL Haydn Barlow and MAJ Lachlan Simond."


.....

Not too long ago LTCOL Harris himself wrote an article for the army news. 

Here is a transcript of the article.

Teeing off last time with some advice
Lt-Col Mike Harris on the importance of mateship.

At 48, with a wife, two teenage children, a dog, mortgage and a project car, I was forced to confront the issues of depression and death.
A year on, I was able to celebrate my 49th year.

In this time I have never been so proud of my courageous wife and two beautiful teenage children as they have helped me deal with the challenges of chemotherapy and the emergence of more troublesome cancers.
Sadly that’s where the miracles end.  To borrow a golf metaphor, I am about to finish my round with a better-than-expected result and I’m heading for the clubhouse for some relief.

Not only has my family made me feel loved and cared for during this final, palliative phase of treatment, a group of friends has been quietly and selflessly showing what true mateship is.
Joined by colleagues, and even complete strangers they conspired with my wife’s consent to resurrect my British sports car under the cover of darkness and without my knowledge.
I find myself asking, why did they do it?  They all had different motivations but a constant theme – mateship.

These people from Army, Navy, Air Force, APS and the general public literally rebuilt my car with their bare hands, dipped into their pockets for loose change, used all their spare time and scoured the country (and the UK) to find the parts – and wanted nothing for it.
It is humbling.  I am lost for words.
In a race against the finish of my health battle, they beat the odds and surprised me with the keys to my Stag a couple of weeks ago.

I hope you are picking up a theme here.  We all joined the ADF to be part of something bigger than ourselves.  We put ourselves in harm’s way in order to protect our way of life, honour the Anzac tradition and make the future better for our children and future generation.
My car has become a metaphor.  Notoriously unreliable, it’s a bugger to work on, and in 1987 was the most frequently stolen car in the UK.  But now, my talented friends have turned the car from a curbside relic to a vehicle that will hold enduring sentimental value.
It’s a priceless gift to my family.  It has shown me the immense good and selflessness in our people.  I am most proud that it brought people together, and I am humbled that they did it for me.
I quietly wish there was more time to thank my friends and to enjoy the fruits of their labours.  I never thought I would see it going again.

On Sunday, November 12, I was liberated from my palliative care facility, surprised my understanding wife with a long lunch for all my mates, and drove through the streets of a quiet NSW suburb listening to the heartbeat of a 1970’s British classic V8 as I basked in the sunlight of a warm spring day with the sun on my face.  I got to share laughs with my mates, smell the aroma of burnt oil, fresh car wax and 98 octane being turned into sweet smoke as I gripped the wheel and pressed the pedal for the first and likely last time.
I smiled.  This was a good day.  This is what life is all about.  Mateship, love, compassion.

As I enter my final battle, I offer this advice; Take a positive view, not a negative one.  Be proud.  Take your holidays, spend time with your families, do something for your mates and live life.
We have a world full of amazing, compassionate people – please make sure that spirit continues.


For now, I’m heading out to tee off on a different course.





LCDR Pete Croce, Harry, MAJ Lachlan Simond and Phil Pyke on the day of his first drive. The major missing piece from this one is MAJ Dougie McGuire who spent as much time skinning his knuckles on sharp edges than Pete did.


LTCOL Harris also penned the following farewell article that is worthy of sharing...

A triumphant farewell
How a group of friends surprised a colleague with the drive of his life.

Entering the final stage of his battle with terminal cancer, Lt-Col Mike Harris was recently surprised to discover a group of friends had – under the cover of darkness with his family’s assistance – resurrected his rare 1977 Triumph Stag, which blew its engine in 2012.
The Public Relations Officer said he was lost for words at the outpouring of support from colleagues, peers and even perfect strangers to get the car back on the road for a special drive recently.
“It’s simply amazing and I am genuinely humbled to drive the car again – I honestly thought this would never happen; it looks just marvelous and sounds perfect” Lt-Col Harris said.  “Apparently they had been coming over for months without my knowledge, taking parts away to recondition and rebuild, and it is only in the last month that they finally told me what was going on because they needed to take the whole body shell away to replace the engine.  I was gob smacked.  It was not until that moment that I realised the sheer magnitude of the effort.  And when it turned up it was something special,; to drive it again was just unbelievable.”

LCDR Croce said the group had resolved to complete the vehicle after Lt-Col Harris was diagnosed with a terminal cancer.  “He told us this was his dream car and he was anxious about leaving ‘a wreck’ for his daughters.” LCDR Croce said.  “Knowing how much it meant to him and knowing how much it would cost to restore professionally, a few of us thought we would have a crack at getting it going for him.  Once his condition deteriorated, we knew we had to get cracking without keeping him in the loop.”

What followed was a lot of scouring for parts, the generosity of complete strangers, and people rallying to support a worthy project for a bloke held in high esteem across the ADF and APS.
“You learn a lot about your mates on a project like this, like who has the smallest hands, the widest vocabulary and highest resistance to second-degree burns – there is no room when you are working on it.” LCDR Croce said.

With a worldwide production run of 20,000, he said the group worried about finding the necessary parts.  In the end, two mechanics in Melbourne heard of their predicament and provided a second-hand engine at minimal cost.
Maj McGuire said the project was a challenge.  After years sitting outside, a lot of the car’s components had deteriorated.  “Both Pete and I have spent a bit of time wrestling with old cars, so it was a lovely project to be involved in.” he said.
“This is just something you do for a friend who is having a hard time.  Harry has provided a lot of us with valuable leadership, mentoring and guidance over the years.  It was only fitting that we helped out in some small way when he was in a tough situation.”

For Lt-Col Harris, the generosity of personnel across the services, APS and general public has been humbling.
“This is just a car, but it has become an example of mateship – a classic sports car that turned into a project, a group of friends gathered around a mate they care about, and a loving family.  I am humbled and proud all at the same time."
See you later
.....

Finally comes our small chapter of the story. The quilt!

Here is Harry's response....


Hello Jan-Maree, 

I am the person surrounded by the group of friends who funded and helped put my project car, a Triumph Stag, back on the road. I am in Palliative Care as my cancer takes hold of my liver and has started to control my life. As such, I was able to return home for an afternoon with my family and to enjoy an evening meal. What shocked and surprised me was a gift from your organisation that almost took my breath away. Being one of them bloke types, I'm not familiar with quilts and the detail, craftsmanship and time taken to put such an extensive artwork together. And it is art. Your members have taken concepts and put them into a fabric canvas and, in your fabulous letter, did all this in a number of days.

We owe you more than a few photographs which we will accomplish in the coming week once we can put the right people (me) in the right place.

It is not adequate but I say Thank You with all my heart and soul. The quilt is a truly touching gift and has impressed all those who have come into contact with it. So, your gift has a spiritual connection too.

Thank you.


For doing more than you may ever know




And from LCDR Peter Croce 

Thank-you once again for your amazing support for Harry and deployed personnel over the years. We are just ordinary people with extraordinary jobs. But what I have learned this year is that every day Australians have a core of gold to help out a mate when times are tough – it’s refreshing and inspiring. 
.....

I always say it is a pleasure and a privilege to coordinate Aussie Heroes and never more so than when we are able to complete request like these ones. 

I know you will all join with me in sending our very best wishes to LTCOL Mike "Harry" Harris and his family. 

Instead of my normal sign off I will end this post the way that Harry ended the video which I hope you watched above....



Really, what more is there to say.

JMxx

Weekly Despatches 19th January 2018

Hi to all you marvellous creative sewers
Well my year has started off with a rush, holidays now completely worn off and up to my neck at work! Oh the joy of playing catch up after you have had a holiday.
You wonderful crafty people have been beavering away.  
Great work!
So far for 2018 we have sent off 64 quilts 

Bringing our total since we started to over 8,462 quilts

&

116 laundry bags for the year 

 Which brings us to a total of 16,636 since we started...


Lisa K (back)

Lisa K (front)

Ruth S (back)

Ruth S (front)

Ruth S (back)
  

Anne and Gail quilted by Philomena

Bev F

Bev M

BOM's embroideries (by Rhonda we think) and top assembled by Jo H and quilted by Lynn V

Bridget

Bridget

Bridget

Bridget

Bridget

Cath W

Cath W

Cath W

Cath W

Cathie J

Cathie J


Challenge quilt top created by Rachel and quilted by Bridget

Clarrisa
  

Clarissa

Clarissa

Clarissa

Ellen N

Georgie

Jean

Jean


Jean

Jean

Jennifer L

Jennifer L

Jenny D

Jenny D

Jenny D

Jenny N


Jenny N

Jenny P

Jenny P

Jenny P

Jenny P

Jenny W (front and back)

Jess L
Jess L

Jess T

Jill B (back)

Jill B (front)

June

June

Kate McD

Kate McD

Kaye G

Kaye G

Lee W

Lisa K (back)

Lisa K (front)

Lynn quilted by Bridget

Lynn R-S

Lynn R-S

Lynn R-S

Mel B

Melissa L

Pamela T

Quilt to by Wendy V, quilted by Bridget, embroidery by Pennie

Raeleen

Rebekah R

Rosa-Lin

Ruth S

Ruth S

Ruth S

Ruth S

Ruth S

Sally R

Sue G

Sue G

Sue N

Sue N

Sue N

Sue N

Susan Pr

Susan Pr

Susan Pr

WPH ladies completed by Bridget

Thanks for all the wonderful contributions this week.
I hope that you are keeping out of the heat.  Some poor parts of Australia are being cooked and other parts being rained on.  So where ever you live, have a great weekend.
We are all looking forward to the Australia Day Long Weekend coming up next week.  Spare a thought for those who are deployed and not able to enjoy the same activities available to us here in Australia.  Make sure you plan to enjoy something special on Australia Day.  Our Defence Personnel deploy to keep Australian's safe, so we all can enjoy the freedom and pride of Australia Day.
Make your Australia Day count.

See you round like a rissole


Shelley