A GIANT Canadian helicopter with an American pilot has landed in Ballarat this afternoon in a show of solidarity to the community's emergency and defence force personnel.
The chopper's operating manager and pilots want to be part of a movement to share the burden in what they say is a global issue for servicemen and women - post-traumatic stress and depression.
WATCH THE CHOPPER LAND BELOW
Fresh from completing duties in Victorian fire grounds, the chopper will be at St Patrick's College oval for Ballarat's Walking Off the War event on Saturday. It is a rare chance to all at the event to sit in and explore up close.
Ballarat aviation firefighter Wayne Rigg said the chopper's operators made the approach to be part of the event, in whatever way they could. The operators had personal experience as civil contractors in Afghanistan, while one of the American pilot's father was a Vietnam veteran.
"Everyone has a connection somewhere to defence force or emergency services personnel...Everyone knows someone who has struggled PTSD or struggled with mental health," Commander Rigg said.
"This is an issue in which responsibility sits on so many levels of government and organisations but it allows people to own the issue as an individual, to reach out and keep and eye on each other."
This is an issue in which responsibility sits on so many levels of government and organisations but it allows people to own the issue as an individual, to reach out and keep and eye on each other.Wayne Rigg
Walking Off the War Within is the legacy of Ballarat's Nathan Shanahan, a former special forces soldier and firefighter. Nathan walked 400 kilometres from Mildura to Adelaide five years ago to advocate for better mental health support and awareness as he faced his own "war within". He took his own life in December 2016.
Nathan's family and Ballarat City fire fighter mates have developed the event as a community walk to support emergency services and defence force personnel in a family-friendly, carnival atmosphere.
Walking Off the War Within has expanded to nine locations across Australia, starting with Ballarat on Saturday.
Participants can walk as much or as little of the event as they like about a two-kilometre circuit. The ultimate challenge is 20 kilometres carrying a 20-kilogram pack to represent the burden on one's shoulders.
Commander Rigg said events like Walking Off the War were important in shining the light on what had for so long been taboo topics, suicide and mental health.
"This event has grown from complete tragedy and heartache but the Shanahan family and Nathan's mates have really shined a light on this issues. They've grown the event with families and the idea has events all over Australia shows it really resonates with people," Commander Rigg said.
"Worldwide the military and emergency services are fronting tough times. This is an issue with a common thread across the world and it's wonderful Ballarat is creating awareness and education."
Commander Rigg said the helicopter en route was "essentially a flying bus". This helicopter was used in the evacuation of people from Mallacoota but also has the capacity to carry and drop 3400 litres of water. It is due to fly back to North America early next month.
The chopper will be part of an emergency services vehicle and equipment display at the event.
Everyone is welcome and encouraged to join in and explore Walking Off the War Within on Saturday. The 2km course loop starts at St Patrick's College's main oval with a 9am muster.
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If you or someone you know is in need of crisis support, phone Lifeline 13 11 14.
Soldier On: 1300 620 380
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