A short while prior to July 2007 Mrs Lisa Mountney, a daughter of a former 4 RAR member, informed me of a four year old boy who lives at Wonglepong near Canungra, Qld who, because of illness in the family could not attend the ANZAC Day celebrations. He was bitterly disappointed and distressed because he had planned to “thank the soldiers” and could not. He had even produced a poster which he had intended to ask a soldier to sign for him. On hearing of his dilemma, we contacted the family and I offered to visit the little boy whose name is Cooper Clarke and to thank him personally.
We then had another thought ; here is a little boy who in his own innocent way appreciates what the sailors, soldiers and airmen of the Australian Defence Force do for the security of Australia and the defence of its allies and that this appreciation should be shared. We then decided that we would visit Cooper, but then had another idea. What if we were to conduct a special ceremony for Cooper at which he would be invited as the guest of honour; how much effort would be required; would his family agree and would it work? The answer was that we would make it work!
The President and members of the RAR Assoc, Qld were approached and asked if we might use the Royal Australian Regiment National Memorial Walk at Enoggera Barrack to perform a simple service at which Cooper would be the guest of honour and allowed to speak to some old soldiers, to thank them personally and for them to sign his poster.
The RAR Assoc unanimously agreed.
During the subsequent service on 13 June, Cooper and his mother, Mrs Cassie Clarke accompanied by Mrs Mountney were introduced as the special guests. The 4 RAR Association welcomed them and explained the concept of the service, the purpose of the RARNMW and thanked Cooper for his thoughtfulness. We then presented Cooper with a rifle green beret complete with Regimental badge, an Australian National Flag, and invited Cooper and his family to join the 4 RAR Honour Project and presented Mrs Clarke with a copy of the service and a short history of 4 RAR.
Cooper and Mrs Clarke then laid a wreath for the fallen and also laid flowers at the base of some of the trees and memorial plaques.
But more was to come!
A Bushmaster and crew provided by 6 RAR then took Cooper, Mrs Clarke and Mrs Mountney for a ride. Cooper, wearing his beret became the commander and with earphones and sun glasses on and with map in hand directed the crew on a tactical mission.
This caused some of the old soldiers to kick the tyres as they had never seen a Bushmaster let alone ride in one. Two actually wanted to sign on again but their carers wouldn’t allow it.
Cooper went home that night, pinned his flag to his bedroom wall, pinned his honour plaque to his pyjamas and wore his beret to bed.
Any concern that the day might have been beyond Cooper’s comprehension was dissipated when his mother confirmed that he still describes every event with the utmost clarity and with adult understanding.
Cooper, however, had left his poster at home and it couldn’t be signed. A few days later the President of 4 RAR Assoc, Qld attended the RAR Association Happy Hour and explained the situation to the members present. Over 70 former and serving soldiers of all commissioned and non-commissioned ranks queued to sign his poster.
To all those soldiers who could not attend Cooper’s special day, Cooper Clarke, aged four, says a very special, “thank you for serving our country, for preserving our freedom and for assisting our allies. May God keep you safe.”
Lieutenant General (probationary) Cooper Clarke, aged 4.
Lieutenant General (probationary) Cooper Clarke commands a 6 RAR Bushmaster on cross country operations in outback Enoggera whilst on Operation THANK A SOLDIER.