Pain of loss still raw for Fairy Meadow gym owners

Former ADF commandos Shaun Trainor and James Gatley with a photo of three of their fallen mates. Picture: ANDY ZAKELI
Former ADF commandos Shaun Trainor and James Gatley with a photo of three of their fallen mates. Picture: ANDY ZAKELI


Tucked away in the corner of a Fairy Meadow gym sits a photo of three men aboard an army patrol vehicle in the middle of a sparse landscape.

The photo is unremarkable, except for the fact that, since being taken in 2009, all three - Tim Aplin, Mervyn McDonald and Cameron Baird - have lost their lives while deployed as commandos in Afghanistan.

Recently discharged commandos and gym owners Shaun Trainor and James Gatley created the shrine to their fallen comrades as a way to remind people of the very real sacrifice made by Australian soldiers.

Mr Trainor said this Anzac Day, he would try to remember the good times he had shared with his friends, rather than remembering the pain of losing them.

"For me, it's not just an abstract thought ... you know those who have fallen or those who have made the ultimate sacrifice," he said. "I remember not just their death but the good times we all shared together - the times we were overseas and the good times that they won't be here for now."

During the conflict in Afghanistan, Mr Trainor and Mr Gatley's unit was partnered with the Afghan Provincial Police, working with them to provide security in Uruzgan Province.

Mr Gatley said people commemorating Anzac Day needed to be aware that, for many, the experiences of war were still fresh in their minds.

"We need to remember why Anzac Day started originally but now, if we can incorporate those that have made the sacrifice in current conflicts, then it's good," he said.

"If [people] recognise it as being more than just a day off where we can play two-up and get drunk but more so ... what it means as a whole."

Mr Gatley described the feeling of losing a friend in battle as devastating:"It was just a case of let's hope it's no-one I'm really close with and let's do what we can do collectively to make their return and lay them to rest as respectfully as we can.

"I think one in four of the casualties were from the unit we were associated with."

On Friday, Mr Trainor will attend a dawn service with ADF personnel and their families, while Mr Gatley will catch up with friends and former colleagues at Woonona Bulli RSL.

Related reading