Private Nathanael Galagher
2nd Commando Regiment
In Helmand Province, Afghanistan, on their way to their second mission for the night, a US Marine Corp helicopter they were in was trying to land in a cloud of dust, when the rotors hit an embankment and Private Nathanael John Aubrey Galagher and Lance Corporal Mervyn McDonald were thrown out and lost their lives.
It was Thursday morning 30th August 2012.
On a rainy Friday night in April 1989, Nathanael was born at the Wee Waa Hospital in North West NSW, the first child of Wayne & Sally. He was a very happy & placid baby and absolutely loved his four grandparents, his 21 Aunties & Uncles, his numerous cousins both first & second and Derryn Hinch.
Natt, I miss your happy smile such as when you were pulling little Elanor sitting on a corn bag over bumps and through the sloppy muddy puddles and then your concentration when you and Ben were racing your billycarts down the mildly steep muddy banks of the little creek and later kind of harnessing the dog to pull you along the open ground. The smile shone through the mud. I’d have to hose you all off outside so you wouldn’t track mud & dirt inside.
After you came back from Afghanistan, you talked to me about our deep concern about the way the children were treated over there. I noted the growing confidence and pride in your new capabilities and the strong way you marched on ANZAC Days.
Natt I miss you every day….Love you, Nan Jean
My best memory of you was from one day at home we were outside talking about horses and you were saying that you really couldn’t ride very well. You asked Pop if he had a horse you could take as you and some friends were going to go for a ride down the paddock. He said, “Yes, there is one already saddled up”. Not long after you left we saw you flying past at a gallop because there was a young girl whose horse had bolted & you caught up to her & saved her from being thrown, or worse. Pop said, “Oh, I think that boy can ride”.
We were so proud of you when you joined the Army. I remember when we were going to your Pass Out parade at Wagga Wagga. Your Mum was to pick us up at 8am for the trip down there. Pop and I were up at 1am and sat ready & waiting for 5 hours until your Mum came – we were not going to miss that trip!
So proud of you Nathanael, miss you, love you…..Nan Galagher
Natt, as he was called when little, was almost 4 when his sister Elanor was born. He was a typical big brother – protective and helpful, but would also readily play tricks on her and forever jump out from behind doorways to try and frighten her.
The family lived at Pilliga, where Wayne was a shearer & Sally was a bookkeeper.
Weekends were spent pig hunting, riding & working horses, riding their push bikes about town, spending time with the cousins doing the same, plus some cray dabbing & fishing thrown in.
The life experiences of growing up in the country, wild and free without city living restrictions, was a major influence in Natt’s outlook and capabilities. He would try anything that interested him.
It never worried him if he wasn’t good at it because he knew he had had a go & had done his best.
Natt started Kindergarten at Pilliga Public School in 1994. His time there was filled with many incredible experiences. The school’s enrolment was about 30 so all the pupils were involved with everything.
He played a lot of sport and in 1999 in Year 5 was a member of both a swimming and athletics relay team that went to Sydney for the State Carnivals representing North West in the Small Schools section – they made it to the finals – pretty good for a little school that doesn’t have a swimming pool in the town.
They had to travel to Coonamble, Baradine and Wee Waa for training. The State swimming carnival was held in the then new Olympic pool at Homebush twelve months before the Sydney Olympic Games.
Every year Pilliga Primary School awards the Nathanael Galagher Memorial Award for Sportsmanship to a deserving student who portrays the same traits as Nathanael did – have a go & do your best but don’t forget to help those behind you.
Who would of thought, a biography of our Natt, our brother from another mother, a son we never had.. There are lots of stories we all have, most are too naughty and will be forever kept with us to laugh and cry over. Growing up with you was the best ever, never a dull moment, always a laugh and a cheeky grin. Aunty Donna was always the brunt of your cheekiness and laughter, she wouldn’t have it any other way. All those times when we would wake in the mornings to find you asleep on the lounge, you’d crept in the night before. Pig chasing with the girls and being thrown off the back from their wild driving, chucking donuts in cars out the road, B&S parties, so many memories, so hard to choose. My favourite is when you called to tell me you and Jessie we having a baby, and you asked if I thought you would be a good dad, Natt, you would be the best ever.. To us the Phillips family, you are one of our most favourite people and we miss you every day, our world has never been the same since you left.
– Much love xxx Donna-Irene, Case & Britt.
During the winter seasons from 1994 to 1999, Natt played rugby league for the Wee Waa Panthers Junior League Club and also represented Wee Waa and Narrabri in district teams.
He played golf and cricket and he went to Pony Camp in Wee Waa and also loved to ride steers at the rodeos
At the beginning of 2000, the family moved to Forbes where Natt did Year 6 at Forbes Primary and Years 7 to 12 at Forbes High School.
Still loving his sport, he was in the school rugby union and league teams as well as the Forbes Junior League and senior comp teams.
He liked cross country running and went to Eastern Creek as a member of the Central West representative team.
When he was 14 because of his placement in the State Cross Country championships he also went on a trip to America to compete against high schools in California & Nevada in cross country running.
One of the parents managed to get him and the only other boy in the group into a Las Vegas Casino for a look.
For sightseeing they went to places like the Grand Canyon, Sunset Boulevard, Venice Beach & Tijuana in Mexico.
During this time there were a few holidays away with the family and close friends – a road trip to Kowanyama in North Queensland, another to Perth & Geraldton, and others to spend time with relatives. School holidays were nearly always spent with the cousins either at Pilliga or Boggabri.
In our 8 years in Pilliga, your family became part of our family.
We often have a giggle about our holidays together where Nathanael & the other kids had contests to see who could eat the most Pizza. We would always sit away from them as if we didn’t own them.
– Robyn & Dennis
Natt was the closest thing I had to a brother, there’s not a memory I don’t have from
growing up and School holidays that doesn’t include him in it.
As typical bush kids we spent 99% of it outdoors up to mischief, adventure and exploring everywhere we could.
I’m Truly blessed and honoured to have spent all those years together.
– Marty, Nathanael’s cousin.
The home at Forbes had a small forest in the paddock next door and the property was on the banks of the Lachlan River. For his birthday one year Natt was given a bow and arrow set. He would go hunting in the forest with his bow and arrows and would sneak up on unsuspecting animals, or spend hours waiting in a hiding spot for one to come close enough to him.
Other pastimes included being towed on a car bonnet by his sister along an irrigation channel, riding the Jet Ski in the farm dams and tearing around the paddocks in his mother’s old Datsun or the old blue Hilux. At this time he also developed a love for whip cracking and would compete in junior competitions around the central west.
I have so many memories of all the funny things we would get up to as kids, you taught me many things and I’m thankful I always had you to look up to and protect me. If I had to choose just one memory it would be how we were riding the motorbike being silly doing doughnuts. I was driving and you fell off, you got back on and made me promise not to spill you off again, I promised but you fell off again. I remember you initially being cranky but we both had a good laugh and you I’m sure were thinking of ways to get me back. Or the time we were skiing on a fridge lid along a fire break and when you got off you smiled and your teeth were covered in dirt, I’m pretty sure you flogged me for it but it was so hilarious.
You’re the best big brother. And even though we fought a lot as kids, as we got older our relationship grew into a beautiful friendship. I am forever grateful for the love and acceptance you gave to me. Losing you has left a hole in our family that will never be replaced.
I love you Thanael.
Natt loved to read, he loved watching war movies as well as other action movies & shows and he loved playing video games (especially Call of Duty). He loved the music of Mumford & Sons & The Dropkick Murphy’s. His favourite meal was rissoles & vegies. He loved his family, his mates & his friends.
Nathanael was a best mate, a friend I could always count on NO matter the time of day or where I was.
I remember one time I just got my P plates and I called Nate to say let’s drive to Coffs Harbour for a few weeks from our home town of Forbes. I had asked several mates and they all said they will ask their parent’s permission. Nate just said, “I’ll tell Mum & Dad”. So that was it, we loaded up the dogs, surfboards, fishing rods and spear guns for an epic trip in the little Suzuki Stockman. We went via Pilliga, chasing pigs. At around 900kms one way, it was just one of many crazy trips we did together.
Another time Nate, Davo & I were out shooting and we rolled a ute. The ute was a mess but we were ok. The shot gun was loaded the whole time and while I was uncocking the firing pins, pointing at the ground, one firing pin slipped & went off – I shot Nate in the foot. Lucky he had steel capped boots on. He wasn’t fazed at all. This was just another one of the memories I had with Nate, we didn’t tell anyone about all the mischief we got up to.
I miss him every day.
I named my eldest son after Nathanael
Throughout his growing up, there were a few trips by ambulance to Emergency at the Wee Waa & Forbes hospitals – a school cricket match that resulted with a cricket bat in the face, injuries on the footy field, being knocked out at footy at Condobolin, a spill off the fridge lid that resulted in a few stitches, a school science experiment that resulted in an eye injury, a school game of basketball that ended with a broken wrist – just the normal, run-of-the-mill things that happen to an active kid.
Our paths crossed in the early years of high school. I only knew of him as the boy with a funny name that no teacher could pronounce first go correctly, who grew up out west and had bushy eyebrows.
I would later learn through our friendship that he was a very likable character. He had that no worries demeanour/attitude and took everything in his stride. He was smart, genuine, creative and artistic. But athletic and a fierce competitor when the need arose.
He was loyal, strong, small in stature yet big in heart, and larrikin to boot! Which was my favourite thing about him. Natt spent a lot of time at my house throughout high school. Whether it was hanging out after school, waiting to go to footy training, just calling in to say hello, or staying the night after a few too many drinks. He very much became a part of my family dynamic.
Often I would come out to my childhood living room unbeknown to me, to find Nathanael had arrived quite sometime earlier and was perched up at the dining table talking to any number of my family members. He was always up for a yarn.
My first stay out at Wandary Lane was one I will never forget. Within minutes of arriving, I was getting dragged behind a four-wheeler on top of an old steel fridge lid at what seemed liked warp speed in my brand new Adidas matching tracksuit getting covered in all matter of grass, hay, mud and animal shit. I finally fell off. I am filthy from head to toe, Natt returns with a massive grin on his face to pick me up, barely able to contain himself, “You right?” he asked. “I accidentally went through some cow poo!” with his biggest cheeky grin. I barely got on back on before I heard “Faster?” And away we went. I think that very moment cemented the start of a long, mischievous, enjoyable friendship.
The last time we saw each other in person pretty much summed up our friendship. I was on holiday in Manly. There was a massive swell at the beach, and we were out in the deep-water body surfing. Natt was in peak physical condition from his training, fair to say I was not! We pushed each other to the limit wave after wave before I finally caved. He was more than happy to have one up on me.
We later sat in the Steyn from daylight till late beer after beer, laughing, scheming, reminiscing about school, and telling life stories. My family and now wife were there, we also got to meet Jess for the first time. Neither of us wanted to leave. Natt always wanted “one more beer” which I kindly obliged. Once again, we had pushed each other to the edge. I think this occasion ended as a draw as both our respective partners forcefully dragged us in different directions in the wee hours of the morning.
It was a great day with a great mate, keeping good company and it is now one of my fondest memories of him. There was laughing till tears rolled down ours faces, competition between two good mates, and plenty of tall tales from life and his training to date.
There was never a bad word said about anything or anyone, he was just a fair dinkum good bloke. One that I severely miss.
– Jarrod Morrison
I first met Natt in High School however we didn’t become close friends until my uncle John Wayne and Natt’s Dad, who worked together, took delight in teasing us about the possibility of being more than friends. From then our friendship grew and Natt became one of my best friends.
We realised that we basically lived across the river from each other when one day Natt just turned up on my doorstep after swimming across the river and walking a couple kilometres to my house. It soon became a common occurrence that one of us would end up at the others house on a weekend.
One day our friend Amy was at my house and she had a canoe that she bought out. We messaged Natt and asked him to come over. Natt came over and the three of us went canoeing upstream to his house where he had a swing that you could jump into the river off. I was too scared to do it especially because the river was low however Amy swung off it and let go too late and pretty much landed on the bank. I thought she had broken something for sure and was so worried all our parents were going to kill us when they found out she was now paralysed because of what we were doing. Thankfully she was fine, other than being a little sore but Natt helped her back into the canoe and rowed us all the way home and none of us said anything to anyone about it until this day.
Whenever I went over to Natt’s house we would usually go for a drive, in the little white car that Elanor had won, around all the other farms. One day a few of the other boys were there from school and they were all “skiing” on a board in the channel being towed by a ute – needless to say I definitely didn’t give that a go either! I also have many great memories with Natt from school and our school excursions, particularly the time I beat him in putt putt golf when we went to Jamberoo water park, also our High School graduation where Natt and I decided to go into a shout together and I have never been able to drink or look at a beer without feeling sick since.
I think about Natt often and miss him a lot. Natt was loyal, honest, funny, kind and caring and a true gentleman and he made the best friend I could have asked for growing up.
– Jacinta (Thurston) Grogan
Back in the old days we used to have our office in the Hall, groups of kids would come down looking for equipment to borrow at lunchtime, which we were happy to do without issue. But it would come at a cost, in order to ensure the kids looked after the gear we would make them do a physical task (usually push ups/sit ups/burpees etc.) in the beginning it wasn’t very strenuous.
We started with 15/20 push ups per person and we would often have 5 or 6 boys down there completing the task. As the number of push ups increased (often dependent on whom was borrowing and how much cheek they had given us) the number of willing participants began to drop (can’t imagine why?) the push ups got past 30, then 40 and ultimately hit the 50 mark. By the time we hit the 50 mark you can imagine there weren’t many suitors, but there was one constant, one bloke who wasn’t afraid to give it a crack regardless of how
high the number got.
This bloke turned up at lunchtime, rain hail or shine knowing full well that it was gonna take his own time, and it was gonna hurt. The requirements soon passed 50, 60 soon after, then into the 70’s and above until us teachers began to realise that this one kid was not going to be deterred regardless of the number asked and how long it took. Once it got up near 100 we just figured that it was such a bloody good effort that these boys could just have a footy if they were gonna do the right thing.
Full credit to him, it might not seem like much but any bloke who is prepared to put himself through that sort of physical punishment just so him and his mates can play footy for the 15 minutes of lunch that were left after completing 100 push ups, is gonna be the kind of bloke that people want next to them when the going gets tough. Looking back I often wondered why those blokes just didn’t bring their own football, or at least bought one for Natt, cause by Christ he earned one. But I’m not even sure it was about the football in the end, just a bloke who loved a challenge and refused to back down from one, and a bloke who would do anything for his mates.
– Justin Hoy PE Teacher Forbes High School
Natt was a much loved part of our family for many years during his high school times, being the best mate of our oldest son Jarrod.
Having two sons of our own we regarded him as our third son. His big cheeky smile and chilled out presence was always welcomed as he walked through our door.
We loved that Jarrod had found such a great mate to spend time with and he would talk with us about many things and always made sure he connected while at our home.
He came to our home sometimes during the week but mostly at weekends when the boys were plotting and planning their next adventure or the boy’s obsession with wanting to take our car for a spin.
Something that we loved about Natt was that he had such an endearing likeable personality. There was something very special about him and we knew that he would excel with his chosen career of the Army.
We were very fond of Nathanael and he will hold a special place in our hearts.
– Peter & Kathy Morrison FORBES
A true commando…..
I swear it was always within you. As a kid I remember playing for hours in the scrub across from Nan & Pop’s, building shelters, hunting and shooting.
Our pretend play was always made to be like the real thing with you and Martin around. You and Martin together were so cheeky and always up to no good.
I miss those days. XXOO
In the holidays Natt would come out to the shearing sheds with us. He helped sweep & pick up and as he got older learnt to shear as well.
I remember most his cheeky smile and always wanting to help, no matter the job.
A good kid.
A good man.
Nathanael always had an interest in becoming a soldier from when he was small, so with his love of sport, his endurance capability and his love of hunting it was inevitable that he would join the Defence Force.
After Natt completed his HSC in 2006 the family moved back to Pilliga then on to Narrabri. He had started his application to join the Army as soon as he had finished his HSC exams, but because he had asthma there were a few extra tests he had to pass before he was accepted – his fitness and mental attitude was pretty good, he just had to prove that the asthma wasn’t a problem and he subsequently passed the extra tests easily.
On 22nd October 2007 Nathanael took an oath to serve Australia and its peoples in their defence as a soldier.
He spent the next 3 months at the Kapooka Army Recruit Training Centre near Wagga Wagga in southern NSW learning how to be a soldier and specifically a rifleman.
He had his March Out Parade on 24th January 2008 (two days after Heath Ledger had died).
From Kapooka he was sent to Singleton Army Base where he learnt more about being a rifleman and a soldier.
I remember the banter you and Blacky had when you would come & stay with us in Newcastle.
Both of you were determined that your respective force was better than the other and I didn’t understand as I would say ‘aren’t you both with the Australian Defence Force?’ Very clear that you loved the Army, Natt and happy with your decision to join, and Blacky the same with the RAAF.
By March 2008 Nate (as he now liked to be called), was assigned to the 1st Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment (1RAR) based in Townsville in North Queensland. He loved his job there and completed a lot more training.
In June 2009 he was supposed to deploy to Afghanistan but one of his wisdom teeth was coming through so he had to have them both removed.
This delayed the date he left until September that year (he wasn’t very happy that he had missed 3 months with his mates). During the time he was still in Australia, Private Ben Renaudo was killed and Private Paul Warren was severely injured.
Nathanael was a member of Benny’s catafalque party for his funeral in Victoria.
The soldiers’ soldier is a term coined to represent a man that has achieved the best result during an army training course. The accolade carries weight in that it is voted for by your peers with no influence from rank. At the time I never put too much thought into my vote other than it just made sense that Gal was the obvious choice through my eyes. It is only until I reflect upon this time in our lives that there were a number of factors as to why we all voted him as our soldiers’ soldier during our Initial Employment Training (IET’s).
There are many occasions throughout a soldier’s career where you cross a new threshold physically and mentally. They are standards that are transferable beyond your military career and back into civilian life. I have thought long and hard to visualise when Gal hit these thresholds and the thing is, I’m not sure he ever did. A country boy to the core, Gal had the engine of a D9 dozer and the ingenuity to pull that dozer apart and put it back together again. Pack marching was always a bit of a laugh in the fact I did not know what weighed more, Gal or the pack? He had the last laugh though often waiting at the finish line looking at the state of most of us trailing in his dust. To this day he leaves me wondering if he hit his mental and physical limits, however, his career progression onto 2Cdo tells me he was only warming up during those early days.
Gal was the guy that was always there with you at last drinks, or the next morning to go and get tuxedo t-shirt tattoos…. “because we were formal but here to party”. His spirit lives on in blood and ink, but most of all, in memories of a man that was the best amongst his peers with a humble soul that would make you feel his equal.
As part of Australia’s involvement in Operation Slipper in Afghanistan, Nate was a member of the Mentoring & Reconstruction Taskforce.
For the Christmas 2009 break he had holiday leave so spent his time in Europe. He went to Rome, France and the Netherlands before going back to Afghanistan.
For January & February he was based in a remote camp where he was still teaching soldiering to members of the Afghan National Army and going on patrol with them through some pretty rough & rugged places.
It was while he was with this group that he thought about trying for selection to be a Commando.
Nate came back to Australia in late February 2010. He had some holiday time owing so he and a few fellow soldiers went to Mexico for a few weeks and he celebrated his 21st birthday there in Cancun.
Big ‘Gal’. One of the most genuine guys I have ever met. Never afraid to tell it how it was, tell someone what you really thought of them and definitely not one to take crap!
One of your traits I really admired. You weren’t the biggest guy but what you lacked in stature you made up for with heart twofold.
Many good times and fond memories together Bro. Spring Break Cancun 2009! Still missed to this day.
– Private A
After Nate came back from leave, instead of just settling back into 1RAR in Townsville, he and a few other mates also started training and preparing themselves for the very rigorous and difficult trials to become a commando.
By the beginning of 2011 he had passed the initial selection and then spent almost all of 2011 doing the training and qualifications necessary and passing more physical and mental exercises and tests in the reinforcement cycle. In an excerpt from his eulogy by his commanding officer, ‘he had to learn how to jump out of planes on to land and in to water, drive zodiac boats, drive a myriad of vehicle types on and off road within complex conditions, blow things up, shoot with a precision that Chuck Norris would be proud of, run a small signals network and operate a confusing array of weapon systems and sensors.
Ladies and gentlemen, if that wasn’t enough to impress you, to give you a sense of what the Army and Special Forces demanded of Nate and what he achieved within 4 years and ten months of service, think about this. Nate was technically trained through undertaking 74 different courses.
He was proficient in 132 different skills and systems ranging from equity and diversity training through to combat first aid, night vision equipment and lasers. He had mastered 29 different weapon systems and grenades. Somehow the army condensed this myriad of skills in to 27 competencies including ‘plan and conduct land force operations’, ‘lead, manage and develop teams’, provide instruction and demonstration through of work skills’.
Nate had also managed to qualify as a Lance Corporal, Junior Non-Commissioned Officer. However with his transfer to Commando’s, he would not have assumed the responsibilities for another year or so. In just over four years of service, Nate’s achievements are remarkable and a testament to his talent.’
Nate epitomised the “Country Boy” stereotype. He was tough as nails, likeable, dependable, loyal and took everything in his stride. Nothing phased him, he was always keen for a laugh and used humour to get through the tough times.
He is never far from my thoughts and I am reminded regularly when doing things with work of our time together and some of the laughs we had.
– Private L
In early January 2011 with extremely heavy rain in Southern Queensland, Nate was trying to get back to Townsville from Narrabri. The roads between the two centres required a 4WD vehicle so he took Wayne’s, as his Holden Commodore SS ute wouldn’t be able to get through.
With his mother on the phone to various police stations in south Queensland, he was able to weave his way through floodwaters as far as Murgon where he had to turn around. As he came back through Toowoomba, the devastating scene of the Toowoomba flash flood was evident. Cars upended on the sides of the roads and destruction everywhere. He still had to get to work though, so with luck on his side he made it through the Cunningham gap just as it was being closed behind him and got to his Uncles home in Southport.
He flew back to Townsville from Brisbane. As he had no vehicle with him, but ever industrious, he purchased a small 2WD Toyota Hilux ute.
And then Nate met Jessie.
Together, in the little Hilux they explored the beautiful areas around Townsville. Jessie was in the Army and based at Townsville too but as he was constantly training in Sydney they would take it in turns to fly back & forth to meet.
By the end of 2011, Jessie had gotten a transfer to Holsworthy so they were able to get an apartment together.
In December 2011 he had another March Out Parade, this time at Holsworthy Barracks in Sydney, where he was given his green beret and officially became an elite Commando in the Australian Special Forces.
The first time I met Nate was on a preselection course at Singleton Army Barracks. It was 2010, the course was aimed at weeding out and sorting the top candidates for the upcoming Special Forces Commando Selection Course.
A tough, wirey country boy type, I remember him topping the scoresheets in maximum push-ups and chin-up type tests. Nate’s wide, cheeky grin on display as always, I knew early that he had the character and attitude the staff were looking for.
Months later we met properly, part way through the first week of the Selection Course in 2011. I was on piquet in the early hours of the morning, 2am or so and it was Nate’s turn to join me. It’s funny, I can’t remember the person who woke me, or who I woke, but even after 10years I remember Nate there with me that night. We whispered and got to know each other for an hour before my shift ended. Turns out he was a country boy, humble and without a touch of arrogance. It was likely our paths had crossed previously at School Cross Country events over the years.
As the Selection proceeded for 6 weeks and the numbers dwindled, we had been teamed up a few times. There was an unofficial bonding between some of the outnumbered Queensland based candidates, forming an unwritten alliance and friendship that helped each other through. There were no surprises that Nate was one of the 30 odd remaining at the end.
Nate continued through the reinforcement cycle with relative ease. When others were stressed. Nate’s grin was on display. This trait is easy to remember. I was allocated to Alpha Company along with Nate, although in separate platoons. I enjoyed a regular brew with him and his closest mates, unsurprisingly all of humble character and moral compasses intact. These gatherings would happen regularly, whilst in training and again whilst we were overseas until that fateful day that Nate passed.
He is easily and fondly remembered. That big cheeky grin forever etched in my memory.
– Private J, November Platoon, Alpha Commando Company Group
Nate & Jessie found out in early 2012 that they were pregnant. This was one of the happiest & totally best day of his life.
Before he deployed in July 2012, they found out that the baby was a boy.
For his second deployment to Afghanistan, this time Nate’s role was as an assaulter in the drug enforcement element where the team would be dropped from helicopters into an area where there were a lot of drug making and distributing activities and they would have to clear these areas.
Most times they found a lot of weapons and explosive devices as well and these were all seized and confiscated with the drugs.
We weren’t sure of each other at first, were we Nate. But your big heart meant that couldn’t last for long, didn’t it brother.
We were always up for a good time even if that got us into trouble, weren’t we Nate. But your cheeky humour meant we could have a laugh about it, didn’t it brother.
We were pushed to our physical and mental limits, weren’t we Nate. But your strength and fortitude meant you weren’t found wanting, didn’t it brother.
We were living our lives to the edge of adventure where few others have been, weren’t we Nate. But your humility kept us grounded while we lived our life to the fullest, didn’t it brother.
We lost you and Merv too soon, Nate. But your names and deeds live on in our hearts and minds forever, brother.
The unit had completed many successful missions since they had arrived and in the early hours of 30th August 2012 Nate and Lance Corporal Mervyn McDonald were thrown out of their helicopter and lost their lives.
Nate and Merv arrived back in Australia on 5th September 2012.
Merv was then taken home to Perth and Nate back to Wee Waa. Nathanael’s funeral was held on 13th September 2012 at Pilliga with full military honours and was attended by Prime Minister Julia Gillard, Opposition Leader Tony Abbott, other politicians and members of the Australian Defence Force.
Nate’s service and name is honoured not only at the Australian War Memorial in Canberra but on the War Memorials at Narrabri & Forbes, at the Avenue of Honour at Yungaburra, on a plaque in the rose garden at Forbes High School and now here at Suncorp Stadium.
Nathanael lived by his own personal motto – ‘Don’t be afraid to go after what you want to do and to do what you love, love what you do. But don’t be afraid to face the consequences and be willing to pay the price’.
Jack was born 12 weeks after Nate’s accident.
Nathanael loved his job and he was proud to serve his country.
He is buried in the little cemetery at Pilliga amongst his family.
Every moment of every day I miss you Nathanael.
I miss our conversations.
I miss your phone calls & texts.
I miss your quirky attitude to all things.
I miss your cheeky grin & that look on your face like you knew something we didn’t! I miss you.
Most of all I miss your future with Jack and that he’ll never know the pure joy of your love and unconditional security of your living guidance & presence.
I miss that you were not only my son, but my friend.
I love you, Mum
I lose a tear every day.
Some days they are sad because you’re not here. Other days they are happy, remembering you and the times we had together. The fun of falling off the bike, falling off the jet-ski, riding & working the horses, pig chasing, shooting, making knives and THE tomahawk, shearing together, the wild rides in the old blue Hilux, the talks, the Mongolian Lamb episode – finger burner, you being my deso, Mum being deso for both of us – good times, the best of times.
Remember the stick family car stickers – your pet hate.
We couldn’t help ourselves & put some on your little ute. It took a while before you noticed but when you did you moved like The Flash to get them off, crunch them up and put them in the bin.
Then there was Susan Boyle. We put her cd in amongst your selection in your car player – I would have loved to see your face when her cd came on as you were driving…going by the fact that it quickly went flying out the window somewhere around Cuttabri still makes me cry laughing today.
23 years is not long enough!
To make our contribution and support families of the fallen, as well as help Lorrae & I accept you leaving us so early, we participated in a walk from Mataranka to Darwin as well as walk the Kokoda Trail.
We carried the honour roll of the Australian soldiers. There we met others who knew you, as well as other families who had lost their loved ones in Afghanistan too.
It was during the Kokoda walk that we really got to learn about the resolute commitment you gave as a dedicated Australian soldier.
Your courage. Your endurance. Your mateship. Your sacrifice.
– Your cousin, Anica
The Katherine Primary School also honours Nathanael every ANZAC Day.
The last photo taken at Narrabri, July 2012
A soldiers life you chose and bravely gave to fate
Our heroes, courageous and ready, Merv and Nate
Together now you are forever in our hearts
A moment in time took your breath away
Your life is now a memory we replay every day
Together now you are forever missed
Time has gone so slow yet gone so fast
And all we have of your future is your past
Together now you are forever loved
We miss you, we love you, forever and ever in our hearts.
Sally Phelps, written for the first anniversary memorial service at Holsworthy – 30/8/2013