As the sun rises on Tuesday morning, a local soldier decked head to toe in camouflage gear will be setting off on an epic journey across the Riverina to raise money for a mental health charity.
Bombardier Brenton Byrne will be marching from the Blamey Barracks at Kapooka to his hometown of Goolgowi about 240 kilometres away over the course of the next week.
The ambitious journey will see the soldier travel more than a marathon each day while wearing army gear weighing more than 18 kilograms, which he said will represent the mental burden many live through each day.
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Bdr Byrne lost his own father to mental illness in 2009 and said he was inspired to take on the challenge after Goolgowi was rocked by multiple suicides in the past few years.
"Unfortunately there has been a few deaths in Goolgowi over the last couple of years and I really just wanted to do this to hopefully make at least some sort of positive change," he said.
"If this leads to benefiting just one person or starts just one desperately needed conversation then it's all worth it."
Bdr Byrne will be travelling 45 kilometres across 11 hours each day until Saturday when he hopes to arrive at the Royal Mail Hotel in Goolgowi.
He said being able to complete the challenge in the region he grew up made it extra special.
"I moved away when I was 19 to join the army but I was born and bred in Goolgowi and home is where the heart is," Bdr Byrne said.
"All my close friends and family are out there and to be able to do it in a local area really means a lot."
Bdr Byrne set out to raise $10,000 for the Black Dog Institute and has already raised over $8000 before setting off.
To donate to his campaign visit www.teamblackdog.org.au/fundraisers/brentonbyrne
For mental health support, contact: Lifeline on 13 11 14, Murrumbidgee Access Line on 1800 800 944 or Beyond Blue on 1300 22 4636
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