MILESTONE moments punctuate the life story of Rodney O'Regan.
At 66 years of age the moments are many, but collectively they cultivated a man of character who chose to dedicate his life to the welfare of veterans and military history.
A Medal of the Order of Australia is Rodney's most recent milestone moment and it is an accolade that has left him "completely dumbfounded."
He is quick to share his achievement with his partner of 18 years, Voula, and says "I would never had gotten this award without her."
"She has been a huge supporter of mine in every way," Rodney said.
That support began when she fell in love with Rodney as he recovered from a long battle with lymphoma.
"I was completely incapacitated in those days, I had a job to walk and couldn't breathe properly and I think she just looked at me as a lame duck and someone to look after," he laughed.
It was this fight for life in his forties that served as the catalyst Rodney needed to focus on his future. His past had involved service as a sapper in Vietnam and a decorated Commissioner's Medal of Valour officer of the NSW Police Force.
"It was a long treatment and I had plenty of time to sit back, think and formulate what I was going to do," Rodney said.
"While I was sick, I was also discharged from the police force for my eyes. I had central serous retinopathy, a detached retina and a haze in the other eye. With all that, and I was alone, I decided to visit some of my friends who weren't doing so well. It was during my travels to Queensland, Northern Territory and to Melbourne that I realised that so many of them were not getting the disability allowances that I was getting and they needed it more than I did.
"I had done work with veterans before and supported close colleagues with getting disability allowances and helping them to get education for their children. There had been a few suicides, keeping in mind that these guys had been knocked about in Vietnam. Some of them had just gone back to their normal jobs and just continued on, but a lot of them had lots of troubles and just couldn't settle down."
It was this compassion and a high work ethic that set the tone for his future.
That future has evolved to become one of service and his citation for the OAM reflects that commitment.
It includes president of the Manning Valley-Great Lakes Totally and Permanently Incapacitated Social and Welfare Club, director of the Australian Light Horse Association, member of the Vietnam Tunnel Rats Association, Fort Scratchley Historical Society, Taree Legacy Club, the Coo-ee March Re-enactment Group, former member of the Veterans and Family Support Link Line, a member of the Newcastle sub-branch Returned and Services League of Australia Pipe Band and his organisation and participation in multiple Light Horse re-enactments for various organisations and events, including at Villers-Bretonneux, France and at Beersheba in Israel. He was also the founding co-ordinator of the community policing program, Neighbourhood Watch and supported the establishment of local schemes.
He is proud and humbled by the OAM and says he will continue to work hard on helping the community of people who have served in the armed forces and police force, and to ensure Australia's military history is kept alive for future generations.