Paul’s spirit will stay on Scarface

We would like to thank the community of Saranac Lake for taking the time today to honour ANZAC Day and the significance that it holds to Australians and New Zealanders, and in particular our Defence personnel.

And especially we want to sincerely thank the amazing community of Saranac Lake as a whole for the outstanding care and compassion they showed to our dear son, Paul.

He was in the township for less than a day and held conversations with perhaps only three or four people, but the locals took him to their hearts and identified him as one of their own.

We have no idea why Paul chose to travel to Saranac Lake. He was, in fact, the only member of our family who had never visited the United States. Our daughter has spent three very happy holidays there, and my husband and I have been there five times in the last five years and just love the country.

We know that Paul worked with U.S. Army officers while on deployment in Afghanistan and had a very high opinion of them. We often spoke to Paul of how much we liked the American people – we found them to be very warm, friendly, open, trusting, articulate, opinionated, and they held their military in very high esteem. These were all characteristics and qualities that Paul himself valued greatly.

In particular we would like to thank the mayor, Clyde Rabideau, for his compassion and leadership shown on his website and for his commitment to honour the wish of Paul’s friend to place a poppy in memory of him on ANZAC Day.

To Bruce Nason, the police chief, and all of the Saranac Lake police force who gave so readily of their time to help locate Paul, we thank you for your outstanding efforts.

To the forest rangers who all assisted in the search, and in particular to Scott van Laer who finally managed to locate Paul again, your efforts are so greatly appreciated.

To the serving Defence members and the war veterans and all the volunteers who gave of their time freely to assist in the search, we thank you so much for your dedication and commitment in trying to locate our son.

Sadly, Paul was never the same when he returned from Afghanistan. He retreated into himself and lived in a world of silence and sorrowful memories. It was tremendously sad for us, as his family, who could remember such a fun, loving person, to see him with no life in his face and no light in his eyes.

It was a testament to his bravery, his moral courage and his great inner strength that he lasted as long as he did. But he never complained, which ultimately was his downfall.

But it is a measure of Paul’s character that not only did he touch so many people’s lives during his short time on earth, but even in his passing he has impacted for the better on people.

I sincerely believe that on the last day of his life, as Paul commenced his climb up Scarface Mountain, he would have experienced a peace and tranquility in the beauty and serenity of the Adirondack Mountains that had sadly eluded him for the last two years of his life.

We do not know the reason why Paul chose Scarface Mountain to be his final resting place on earth, but we will honour his wishes. We only brought him back to Adelaide, Australia, so that he could be farewelled by his family, friends and work colleagues. But we hope to be able to scatter Paul’s ashes at the place where he was located, and then we believe his journey will have gone full circle and he will be back where he belongs and where he wanted to be. Paul’s spirit will always remain on Scarface Mountain, and he will finally rest in peace.

We thank God that he gave us the gift of a son called Paul, who for the last 31 years has enriched our lives in so many ways. And we now give him back to God with our thanks, our gratitude, our prayers and, most of all, our love.

Go well, Paul; your brave struggle is finally over.

Angela and John McKay live in Adelaide, Australia. This message was written to be read aloud by Mayor Clyde Rabideau at an Anzac Day ceremony at 11 a.m. today at Saranac Lake’s World War I monument.