Jacob Moerland with his fiancée Kezia Mulcahy.
Jacob Moerland with his fiancée Kezia Mulcahy.

Woodenbong 'son' killed in action

THE close-knit Northern Rivers community of Woodenbong is mourning the loss of an adopted son, Australian Army combat engineer Sapper Jacob Moerland, who was killed in action in Afghanistan on Monday.

Sapper Moerland was to marry his ‘soulmate’, popular Woodenbong district girl Kezia Mulcahy, at the end of his tour of duty in November at her family’s farm at Koreelah, 20km from town.

The couple met through friends in Brisbane last year and fell quickly in love.

Ms Mulcahy, a personal trainer and former national sprinter and long jumper now living in Brisbane, had been counting down the days until she boarded a plane to Rome for a romantic two-week rendezvous with the love of her life later this month.

But exultation turned suddenly to grief for Ms Mulcahy and her family as news arrived from the Defence Department on Tuesday.

Distraught friends and neighbours were at a loss for words yesterday.

Ms Mulcahy’s parents travelled to Brisbane to be with their daughter as they await the return of Sapper Moerland’s body this weekend.

Sapper Moerland and his comrade, Sapper Darren Smith, were farewelled at aceremony in Tarin Kowt yesterday, and Defence Minister John Faulkner willattend a second ceremony to be held at the Al Minhad Air Base before their journey home.

Ms Mulcahy’s sister, Stacy Shaw, spoke to The Northern Star from the family’s home town yesterday where she was holding the fort.

“Our hearts are breaking for this tragic loss of a very special and brave young man, and for the pain his loss has caused Kezia, his family and friends,” she said.

“We knew Jacob to be a very caring and passionate young man. The love they shared for one another was obvious to everyone.

“Jacob was well liked by all and his whole battalion described him as a brother – he was easy going and always wore a huge smile.”

“Kezia introduced him to mum and dad at a Crusty Demons motorbike show about a year ago – they are all motorbike fanatics. She introduced him as a friend, but he kept holding her hand, so mum and dad knew something was up. They really took to him.

“His premature death has hit us all hard. He was so young and had so many things in life to look forward to. My heart aches for Kezia who also had so much to look forward to, but now has to deal with a grief that no one should have to deal with – let alone at the age of only 21.

“Kezia has been devastated by the news, but is trying to stay strong. She is lucky to have a strong network of family friends to support her at this time of need.”

Lismore RSL Sub-branch president Cec Harris lowered the Australian flag to half mast at the Cenotaph yesterday for the fallen Sappers.

“Our thoughts go out to the families for their loss,” he said. “There’s nothing worse than seeing young lives lost like this.”

Mr Harris knows only too well the dangers combat engineers face on the front line, having served in the samecapacity in Vietnam.

“But back then it was simpler. The bomb triggers were either toggle switches or pressure switches,” he said.

“The fear was always there, but you had a job to do so you got on with it and didn’t think about it too much.”

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