Anzac Day: Noah’s tribute to war hero dad he never met
LITTLE Noah MacKinney-Clohesy never got to meet his daddy. But he was there at the funeral, inside his mum's tummy as she said goodbye to her high school sweetheart, war hero Lance Corporal Jared MacKinney.
Remarkably, Sunshine Coast mum Beckie endured severe contractions throughout the full military funeral - a wave of emotions washing over her as she farewelled the love of her life knowing she was about to meet the little boy Jared had been so desperately excited to meet. It was just an hour after the full military funeral that Noah was born.
"I do wish I got to see him for even one month and it does make me sad," Noah says as he slips on his father's slouch hat, medals sitting proudly on his chest.
Lance Corporal MacKinney was just 28 when he was killed during an intense firefight with Taliban insurgents on August 24, 2010, in what would come to be known as the battle of Derapet.
A soldier with the Brisbane-based 6th Battalion, Jared hoped for a son and had been eagerly anticipating the birth of his second child.
Jared and Beckie were high school sweethearts and had been dating for 10 years, married for almost five, and were besotted with their two-year-old daughter Annabell who was due to turn three just six weeks later.
Beckie's waters broke five hours before Jared's funeral was due to begin.
Despite persistent and painful contractions and pleas from family and medical staff to cancel the funeral, Beckie did not miss a minute of her husband's service on September 10, 2010, enduring the gut-wrenching pain of both labour and the heartbreak of farewelling her soulmate.
Just one hour after the funeral had ended and the soldier's brothers-at-arms had carried his flag-draped coffin from the church, she gave birth to little Noah Jared, named in honour of the father he would never know.
"Noah's arrival was really emotional and I just cried and cried," Ms MacKinney-Clohesy said. "Holding him in my arms and knowing Jared would never get to hold him or meet him, that was pretty devastating. It was this strange mix of happy and sad and exhaustion, and it was bittersweet holding Noah but knowing Jared would never get to."
Today, the significance of his birthday and his father's story haven't quite sunk in for young Noah. The seven-year-old is clearly in awe at the importance of the hat on his head and the medals on his chest and is eager to give them the respect they deserve.
"Anzac Day is important to me and I'll be marching with his medals," he said.
Ms MacKinney-Clohesy said Lance Corporal MacKinney would have been "so excited" to meet his son.
"I do think the timing was Jared kind of giving me something else to focus on that day," she said.
"If he was there he would have told me to get in the damn car and go straight to the hospital."
Ms MacKinney-Clohesy was seven weeks pregnant when her husband left for Afghanistan. It was not Lance Corporal MacKinney's first time overseas - he had completed tours in East Timor, Iraq and Afghanistan before his fatal deployment in 2010.
"The only trip that I really worried about - for good reason as it would turn out - was the last trip," Ms MacKinney-Clohesy said.
"I don't know why but we both had a bad gut feeling about that trip and so did a lot of the other guys."
Now a mother-of-three, Mrs MacKinney-Clohesy will never forget the day she found out she had lost her partner of 10 years.
"I was in brushing Annabell's teeth and heard a knock at the door and I didn't really think anything of it until I heard my mum hyperventilating and falling on the floor in the kitchen," she said.
"I went out there and I asked what was wrong and she just kept saying 'I can't say, I can't say' and then it dawned on me.
"I waddled to the front door and as soon as I got there I saw there was an army car in the driveway and I knew. It's a horrible feeling. The most horrible feeling imaginable."
The heavily-pregnant young mum said the hardest part was telling their little girl.
"Annabell was hiding under the table and I said, 'come here darling, come out from under the table' and she just looked at me, she wasn't even three yet, and said 'mummy did the bad men kill my daddy'."
Almost eight years later, the family is slowly rebuilding from the tragedy but Jared is never far from their minds.
Mrs MacKinney-Clohesy is married to Damien Clohesy - her Year 3 classmate - and with Annabell, now 10, and Noah, they also have a two-year-old boy Nate.
"We always talk about Jared and we don't want it to be an off-limits topic so we encourage the kids to ask questions and we tell stories about him and we have a lot of photos of him around," she said.
"Damien is amazing. He's so supportive and is there for me when I'm struggling and he's there for the kids.
"Days like Anzac Day and Remembrance Day are really important to us as a family and we always go to the services and wear Jared's medals."