MORE than 600 flags representing fallen soldiers will be laid at Australian war memorials during Rob Eade’s journey around the country to honour his comrades.
Mr Eade, who is currently staying in Meadow Springs, served in the Australian Army as a cook in Vietnam in 1969.
Tears welled in Mr Eade’s eyes as he spoke about friends in Vietnam who were not lucky enough to make it home.
“I lost two very dear friends; one was a school mate, he was shot in the thigh and bled to death,” he said.
“The other fellow was an officer I met in the army; he was hit by a mine.
“It was sad, but this journey is for everybody who didn’t make it home.”
Mr Eade was inspired to go on this journey after becoming aware of veteran Mike Ehredt’s travels.
A marathon runner and veteran, Mr Ehredt is running across the USA placing flags to honour soldiers who died in war.
“He’s done 6550 miles (10,541km) of running and at every mile he stops and places a flag for a veteran (who) hasn’t come home,” Mr Eade said.
Mr Eade laughed as he pointed out that at the age of 71 he is not physically able to run.
“I’m riding a trike, he runs, he’s 21 years younger than me,” he said.
“I saw it and said ‘I’m going to that, but on a trike’.”
Mr Eade began preparing for his three-year trip eight weeks ago.
He sold all his possessions and started researching the names of every soldier who had died in conflict from Vietnam until today.
“I need their surname, their Christian names and where they were born, that’s most important,” he said.
“I’ll write it on yellow tape which will be wrapped around an Australian flag.
“The flags will be left at war memorials in the town where they were born.”
His trip begins at the Totally and Partially Disabled Veterans Clubhouse in Baldivis on Saturday morning.
From there Mr Eade will ride to Mervyn’s Cafe in Mandurah, which was opened in honour of Mervyn McDonald, a veteran of the war in Afghanistan who did not return.
“Young Mervyn was born in Carnarvon,” Mr Eade said.
“So I said to his dad, I’m letting you know now, that’s where I’m placing his flag.”
Mr Eade said he has had a hard time getting information on dead veterans from the most recent conflicts in the Middle East.
“For Vietnam Veterans it took seven days to get 520 names,” he said.
“It has been hard to get information on the conflicts in Bougainville, East Timor, Somalia and Afghanistan; they’re very scant on information.
“It’s the age of information. Everyone has to have where they come from when they sign up.”
Mr Eade, who has been married three times since the war in Vietnam, said coming home was hard.
“We came home and put up with all the garbage going on between civilians and the government,” he said.
“They gave us a hard time getting our just compensation, but we fought for it. Now we are fighting twice as hard to get these young blokes their just compensation.”
Mr Eade said the Government was “screwing the boys” heading home from the Middle East.
“There’s been so many suicides among the Afghanistan veterans,” he said.
“There’s been more suicides than deaths in country and there were 42 deaths in country.”
Mr Eade criticised the Government’s increasingly poor treatment of veterans.
“They’re trying to rat us, they’re trying to take our free medical,” he said.
“They say they’re looking after the veterans, but it started with John Howard making us pay more for prescriptions.”
Dog Ginge will be keeping Mr Eade company throughout the journey.
He got the red heeler six years ago and she has been a faithful companion.
She has a custom “bitch’s box” on the back of the trike.
The trip will not be a comfortable one for Mr Eade.
“I’ve had my coccyx taken out, the pressure on it builds up and it’s agony,” he said.
“These blokes that do five to seven hours… that would kill me.”
Mr Eade will be staying in a camping trailer he will tow behind his bike.
“Hopefully in three year’s time I’ll finish in Perth,” he said.
“I have 60 flags to lay at the memorial in Perth.
“That’s the big finale. Then I’ll have a bit of a rest then I’ll work out where I’m going to live.”
Mr Eade is hoping people will offer him places to stay on the journey and would love a fuel company to sponsor him.
To get in contact visit Mr Eade’s Facebook page.