Tribute to local hero
By UTE SCHULENBERG
BELLINGEN RSL sub-branch is planning to honour fallen SAS hero Sergeant Matthew Locke, who was killed during a firefight in Afghanistan on Thursday.
The 33-year-old father of one was born and grew up in North Bellingen before leaving to commence his military career.
Sub-branch president Brian Mortimer said Sgt Locke was a genuine hero, who had been awarded a Medal for Gallantry in December 2006.
"We knew about the medal and as ex-servicemen, we felt very proud but we were unable to say anything for security reasons," Mr Mortimer said.
"With Armistice Day approaching, our ceremony at the cenotaph will take on a special significance and poignancy this year."
Bellingen Shire mayor, Mark Troy, said yesterday he would visit the family, whom he knew well, to extend heartfelt sympathy on behalf of the council and the community.
"Matthew made the ultimate sacrifice for his country and our democratic ideals," Cr Troy said.
"When you lose someone in such circumstances from such a small, close-knit community, the loss is all the more profound."
Sgt Locke, who had regularly returned to Bellingen on holidays, was making his second tour of duty in Afghanistan.
He was awarded the Medal for Gallantry following his first tour.
The medal citation said he received it 'for gallantry whilst under enemy fire in extremely hazardous circumstances, where he displayed courage of the highest order.'
According to Army Chief Lieutenant-General Peter Leahy, Sgt Locke was shot in the chest while conducting aggressive operations against the Taliban.
"Despite the best efforts of his mates, they weren't able to revive him," Lt-Gen Leahy said.
Yesterday the Governor-General Michael Jeffery paid tribute to Sgt Locke, saying he had died doing what he loved.
"That is commanding the best soldiers in the world in operations, which he did so supremely well," Major-General Jeffery said.
"He was a magnificent soldier with a wonderful sense of humour."
Sgt Locke was the youngest of six children of Norm and Jan Locke.
The family said yesterday it was not ready to talk to the media at this early stage.