By Jackson Russell

Kilmore veteran Gary ‘Gazza’ Sturdy was honoured by the Chief of the Defence Force General Angus Campbell for his work feeding veterans and soldiers during bushfire aid efforts in East Gippsland last month.

Mr Sturdy was personally presented with a Challenge Coin by General Campbell as a demonstration of his gratitude for Mr Sturdy’s contribution to Operation Bushfire Assist.

Throughout the armed forces of the world, minted coins bearing the official badge of a unit or a personage are routinely ‘gifted’ to express respect, gratitude or esteem.

The Challenge Coin bears the official seal of the Chief of the Defence Force on one side and the seal of the Australian Defence Force on the other.

Mr Sturdy said he couldn’t speak when Gen Campbell gave him the Challenge Coin.

“I was very emotional. It had been a pretty tough week already and to get that was very humbling,” he said.

“It doesn’t belong to me. It belongs to the team, everyone that was involved in Operation Veteran Assist and everybody that was involved to get me to the point where I could do that job.”

After borrowing a field kitchen from an army base in Albury-Wodonga, Mr Sturdy and his team served about 5700 meals to soldiers from Operation Bushfire Assist and veterans from Operation Veteran Assist.

While he was originally meant to feed veterans in only Bruthen, he was asked to go to Orbost to feed 250 veterans that hadn’t had any fresh rations for more than a week.

“We fed the soldiers, the emergency services, everyone else that came into our sector for a feed and I was also able to provide a kitchen and support staff to go to Bruthen to feed the people I was supposed to feed in the first place,” Mr Sturdy said.

“I had no barriers and everybody that turned up to work was just amazing.”

Chief of the Defence Force General Angus Campbell said he greatly appreciated Mr Sturdy’s contribution the force’s national bushfire fighting effort.

“I was delighted to present Mr Sturdy a Challenge Coin as a token of my appreciation for supporting our soldiers and our Australian community during this time,” he said.