BRIAN Duncan had never really reflected on how long he had worked to improve the lives of veterans and their families, and he certainly never thought a national accolade was where it would lead.
But as the reality of his OAM (Medal of the Order of Australia) sinks in, the Hyland Park Vietnam veteran says being in the RSL, its clubs and branches, as well as Legacy, was like second nature.
“I was in Vietnam in 1965 and ‘66 and was warmly welcomed, albeit as an underage member, into the Fairfield RSL when I came home,” Brian said.
“I think that buffered me from the bad reception that so many others experienced upon their return.
“I knew both organisations were there to help veterans and I was glad to be a part of that.
“Both my father and grandfather were servicemen and ever since I was a kid I knew I’d go to war one day.
“At school I had a deep respect for the veterans who visited and spoke to us … I loved seeing them standing there, so proud.”
Now more than 50 years later Brian looks back on the list of clubs and RSL branches he has been part of – from clubs in Tuggerah Lakes and Nambucca Heads, RSL branches in Stuarts Point and Nambucca plus Legacy in Kempsey and locally.
A favourite Stuarts Point memory is the building of the war memorial, which he designed and then nursed through the development application process.
“We did it for $3000, using materials people donated … I spent a lot of time scrounging all those materials,” he laughed.
As president of the Nambucca Heads RSL Club from 1999 until his retirement in 2015, fundraising for the surf club was a ‘pet’ project.
“The club was badly in need of a new building – both for the community but also for tourism … we raised $50,000 towards what is there today.”
Another ‘pet' project was the Westpac Helicopter.
“We gave them $14,000 over the years … you can’t do better than to help to save lives.”
Brian said he felt proud, excited and honoured with the unexpected award.
“You have no idea where all those years have gone and then suddenly the letter arrives in the mail announcing this news … I wondered if it was for real!
“And then I’ve had to keep it a secret since early December.
“I’m looking forward to sharing the news and celebrating with my friends – they will give me heaps for not saying anything.”