Reflecting on overseas missions

RETIRED army sergeant Jason Stagg will reflect on his life- risking overseas missions and fallen friends this Anzac Day.

And it will be his time in East Timor that will take priority in his thoughts as he marches through Launceston, adorned with service medals, on Friday.

Carrick-born, Mr Stagg left high school at 16 to take up a building and carpentry apprenticeship, and to serve as an army reservist.

At 18, he switched to the army full-time and started a 17-year career.

Mr Stagg served eight years with an infantry battalion before selection with a special forces commando regiment over six years.

He served two eight-month postings in East Timor over this time.

The first of those was when conflict first broke out in 1999.

Mr Stagg said no amount of army training could prepare him for the vicious reality of that conflict which claimed about 1400 civilians.

"When we landed, it was chaos for a while," he said.

"The buildings were burning and bodies were everywhere.

"Nothing can ever prepare you for that."

It was six weeks into the tour that he was engaged in a gun fight alongside eight fellow servicemen against 50 militia members.

The fight won him a Distinguished Service Medal - one of only 21 awarded.

Mr Stagg later served as part of the 2006 Melbourne Commonwealth Games, and in stints in the Solomon Islands and Afghanistan.

He said he was the first of his family to serve in the defence forces which meant Anzac Day had taken on a greater significance than when he was younger.

He said now each dawn service was a time for reflection.

"I think about the good times, the bad times, mates, and those that didn't return," Mr Stagg said.

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