Bellingen farewells a home-grown hero

By UTE SCHULENBERG

BELLINGEN'S Anglican Church overflowed on Saturday as more than 300 people gathered to pay their respects to fallen SAS serviceman Sergeant Matthew Locke.

Sgt Locke was born and grew up in Bellingen and the memorial service was an opportunity for family, long-time friends and the wider community, who did not attend his military funeral in Perth two weeks ago, to mourn his loss and support his grieving family.

Tributes flowed for the man his SAS mates described as having a cheeky grin, gritty determination, being cool under pressure and a deeply respected leader.

"His only fear, parachuting aside, was the fear of letting his mates down," one proud serviceman said.

"He also had the knack of finding an icy cold beer in the most extreme places, including Baghdad."

Known by many as 'Grub', his brother Nick Locke said the nickname had come from their father Norm, who was greeted each afternoon by a boy covered in dirt from the adventures of the day.

Mr Locke said his brother loved his army career, which he saw as being "tough, honest, outdoor work with purpose".

Tears flowed when a poem written by Sgt Locke's 12-year-old son Keegan entitled My Hero was read out.

"My hero was like a tiger stalking in the bush& my hero would never leave someone behind. My hero, my Dad, Matt."

Following the service, the RSL paid tribute to Sgt Locke at the nearby cenotaph.

Sub-Branch president Brian Mortimer said in joining the army Sgt Locke had found his niche.

"It must have been meant to be because he shone in everything he did and (he) did it to the highest standard," Mr Mortimer said.

Sgt Locke believed Australia was the "freest country in the world".

He was on his second tour of duty in Afghanistan when he died in combat fighting for that freedom.

The community walked away to the sound of John Williamson singing True Blue, Sgt Locke's favourite song.



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