12 August 2009

Mother finds peace in a soldier's sacrifice

Mother finds peace in a soldier's sacrifice in Timor-Leste Gabrielle Samson August 12, 2009 - FLYING at dawn over rugged mountains Thelma Jones sees East Timor for the first time. She says she feels an immediate connection and you can see it in her eyes. Mrs Jones is on a pilgrimage to the place where her soldier son was killed.

Mrs Jones, from Rutherglen, has come to East Timor to honour her son and complete a journey. Lance Corporal Stuart Jones of the Australian Army's 2nd Cavalry Brigade died here on August 9, 2000.

Lance Corporal Jones' group patrolled the border between Indonesia and East Timor when Indonesian-backed militias were making frequent incursions into mountain villages, killing and burning, then slipping back across the border to safety. It was the 2nd Cavalry's job to prevent this.

While on patrol in the remote mountainous terrain Lance Corporal Jones, 27, was killed by an accidental gunshot. He was one of the first Australian soldiers to die since troops were sent to East Timor in 1999.

East Timor has been a land of strife for a long time. But Mrs Jones came with open heart to a relatively peaceful land.

The Australian Army showed its heart too. During her visit on the weekend, military personnel took Mrs Jones and her party under their wing. Mates of her son, soldiers from his unit who fought with him in 2000, came from Darwin to accompany her.

Commanding officers made moving speeches about Lance Corporal Jones' professionalism, diligence, his passion and bravery. They show love and respect for his mother: his mates support her, hold her hand, cry with her.

''Two Cav (2nd Cavalry Brigade) was Stuart's whole life,'' Mrs Jones said. ''When he died, he was doing what he really believed in and it's so good to meet other soldiers, his mates, who understand that.''

The specialist training wing of the Nicolau Lobato Military Training Centre is named in honour of Stuart Jones. At the naming ceremony, Mrs Jones thanked Australian and Timorese soldiers for their recognition of his contribution to peace in the country.

''Stuart being recognised by FDTL (East Timor Defence Force) like this is a great honour that will link Stuart and myself with Timor Leste forever,'' she said.

''I know Timorese mothers have cried for lost sons and that grief links us. Our sons have died fighting for peace and we see now that was not in vain.

''I'm going home in peace now. It really is the completion of a journey. I can and will move on, with precious memories of this visit and a deeper understanding of Stuart's death.''
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