In grandad?s footsteps
By CRAIG McTEAR
NATALIE Vercoe would have made her grandfather, Raymond, proud.
The Coffs Harbour 13-year-old will take on New Guinea's gruelling Kokoda Trail in August, becoming the youngest Aussie female to do so.
Raymond Vercoe, who served at Port Moresby and Milne Bay during World War II along with one of Natalie's uncles, died last August.
Monday was the first Anzac Day he's missed, but Natalie took his place in the Coffs Harbour march and wore miniatures of his medals to boot.
"It meant a lot to me," Natalie said.
Her decision to tackle the Kokoda Trail during the 60th anniversary of VP (Victory in the Pacific) Day is fuelled by her respect for the Diggers and her passion for military history, particularly the battles in New Guinea between 1942 and 1945.
"I want to experience the Kokoda Trail so I can relate to what our heroes endured, and pay respect to those who fought and died for us," she said.
Natalie also says the experience will help her to educate other teenagers about a crucial period in Australian history.
"I feel hurt when friends say they don't care anything about the war, because they don't realise what happened," she said.
She believes she'll be physically and mentally prepared to complete the nine-day trek with her travelling companions. They include her father, Brett, a videographer, who will film the journey.
Natalie has to raise $4500 for the trip and would love some sponsorship.
Her family can be contacted on 6650 9732.