Five years of fundraising, planning, digging and planting culminated on October 16 with the opening of the Afghanistan War Memorial Garden in Brisbane.
Veterans, families, current serving members and community members attended the opening ceremony.
The project started with a vision to honour the fallen and those feeling the effects of their service in Afghanistan.
An army of volunteers joined forces to create a sanctuary where everyone can be inspired by, and learn about, the selfless and courageous sacrifice of the fallen, as well as find peace in the solitude of the memorial garden.
A project of the charity 42 for 42, the memorial garden is located next to Suncorp Stadium.
Forty-two plaques frame the edge of the garden – one for each of the 41 Australian service personnel who lost their lives during Operation Slipper, and an additional one representing those who have died since returning home, or who continue to carry post-war injuries.
Each plaque has a QR code that visitors can scan to read the biography of the fallen.
42 for 42 Board President and former Army combat engineer, Sean Mulqueen, was lost for words when he reflected on the years of effort that led to the opening day.
“I can’t believe that we’ve finally done it,” Mr Mulqueen said.
“The garden is now open for people to use the way we envisioned it, and we’re already getting emails from schools that want to take their students there.
“All the hard work was definitely worth it.”
While 6th Engineer Support Regiment members have supported various fundraising activities over the years, including raising more than $22,000 through a 42-hour challenge at the Gallipoli Barracks gym last year, it was their construction expertise and trade skills that helped bring the memorial garden to life.
Having been involved in the 42 for 42 fundraising activities for the memorial garden, Sergeant Michael Britten knew the project would require tradies and a foreman, so he introduced the team to Corporal Ty Fergus, a construction foreman at the 6th Engineer Support Regiment.
“I know it’s difficult because Army receives a lot of requests for support, but Britto [Sergeant Michael Britten] and Ty [Corporal Ty Fergus] came in their own time, just when we really needed them,” Mr Mulqueen said.
“They brought their construction and tradie expertise and helped us work out a few things such as drainage and setting up foundations.
“They also brought in other Army tradies who could help the volunteers with the heavy lifting, and every time it looked like we would have yet another hurdle to jump over, they stepped up and helped us out, ensuring that everything had a professional finish.”
Corporal Fergus said the he enjoyed working on the project.
“We volunteered to help them with the drainage works, concreting, building the fence, installing all the plaque stands, completing the formwork for the statues and other technical tasks,” Corporal Fergus said.
“We had soldiers building a place to remember soldiers; we all developed relationships with the fallen soldiers' families.
“They’d cook us lunch and watch our kids for us while we worked in the garden.
“It felt really good to be helping out – I loved it.”
At the opening of the memorial garden, Corporal Fergus commanded the catafalque party, which comprised 6th Engineer Support Regiment members who had volunteered their time and trade expertise to help create the memorial garden.
As the dignitaries officially opened the garden, 800 people watched a live stream of the service from inside Suncorp Stadium and more than 150 others tuned in to the live broadcast on the 42 for 42 Facebook account.
Now open to visitors 24/7, the Afghanistan War Memorial Garden can be accessed through the grounds of the Anglican church at the end of Chippendall Street in Milton, Brisbane.
More photos can be viewed on the Defence image gallery.