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April 26, 2014

Australian soldier remembered in Saranac Lake

SARANAC LAKE — A blend of American and Australian military honors marked ANZAC Day here in remembrance of Australian Army Capt. Paul McKay, who died on Scarface Mountain in January.

His body was found near the summit after a two-week search in the bitter cold. 

No one knows for certain why he chose to die there. 

But his life has prompted reflection and attention to the unseen scars of war.

‘WORLD OF SORROW’

No family members were able to attend Friday’s events, but McKay’s mother, Angela McKay, sent a letter that Lt. Commander Kathryn McCabe of the Royal Australian Navy read aloud, pausing at times to compose herself.

“The locals took him to their hearts and made him one of their own,” she read. 

“Sadly, Paul was never the same when he returned from Afghanistan.”  

The letter described how Mrs. McKay’s lively and active son had retreated into silence and a world of sorrow.

Capt. McKay, family has said, suffered from post traumatic stress disorder.

“I sincerely believe,” Mrs. McKay wrote, “as he climbed Scarface, he would have experienced peace and tranquility. Paul’s spirit will always remain on Scarface Mountain … 

“Now we give him back to God. Farewell, Paul, your brave struggle is finally over.” 

‘LEST WE FORGET’

A light wind sent a last hint of winter through the crowd gathered beside the World War I Memorial in the village. It tousled American and Australian flags raised together in the park and ruffled the red poppies pinned to coats and uniforms.

Australia’s chief of army, Gen. David Morrison, had dispatched attaché Major Cameron Satrapa of the Australian Defence Force from Washington, D.C., to take part in the Saranac Lake event.

ANZAC Day is a tribute to the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps., much like Memorial Day in the United States. 

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