Families win lost vets proper honour
Peter and Avril Clark with a picture of their son Private Jamie Clark. Picture: Steve Ferrier/The West Australian

As a four-year-old, Jamie Clark told his mum he wanted to be a soldier.

He signed up for cadets early and joined the army when he turned 17, with his first day of training on Anzac Day 2001.

Pte Clark died on patrol in the Solomon Islands on March 10, 2005, falling into a deep shaft while searching a cave for a local militia's weapons cache.

But because he was a peacekeeper, it has taken nine years for his name to be inscribed with those of WA's other fallen soldiers at Kings Park.

A change in RSL policy this month means the names of all peacekeepers killed in action will be honoured at the State War Memorial.

The names of Pte Clark and Special Air Service Trooper Joshua Porter, killed in the HMAS Kanimbla helicopter crash in 2006, were unveiled in a special ceremony yesterday.

It marks the end of a long road for Pte Clark's mother Avril, who campaigned for the recognition of slain peacekeepers here and in Canberra since her son's death.

"My son lost his life while serving his country," Mrs Clark said yesterday.

"He wasn't in a war situation, but he was still wearing his uniform and losing your life while serving your country needs to be recognised."

Pte Clark served with distinction in the Solomons, winning a commendation after he convinced a local woman threatening Australian troops to lay down her machete.

He was also recommended for the SAS training course.

"Service in East Timor changed his life dramatically," Mrs Clark said.

"He learnt an awful lot about himself and how lucky he was.

"I always refer to him as my son, my soldier, my hero, but anyone who dons a uniform and serves their country is a hero in their own right.

"He was a compassionate and dedicated soldier and I'll always be proud of him."

Trooper Porter was 28 when the Black Hawk helicopter he was in crashed into the ocean off Fiji in 2006.

After joining the SAS in 2005, he served in Afghanistan with the Special Operations Task Group as a sniper after service in East Timor and the Solomon Islands.

Speaking ahead of yesterday's service, RSL State president Graham Edwards said it was an overdue recognition for both soldiers.

"Once the National War Memorial approved their inclusion last year, it was natural their names be included here," he said.

"Into the future, you're going to see more and more of this duty for Australian soldiers, regional deployments as opposed to outright war."

He said Mrs Clark and the parents of other peacekeepers deserved full credit for their decade-long campaign.

The West Australian

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