Barry Glover went to war to serve his country but it’s his work fighting the nation’s bureaucracy that has caused him to be honoured with a Medal of the Order of Australia (OAM).
Born in Coledale, he joined the army in the 1960s and trained as an anti-aircraft gunner, serving in South Vietnam.
But with 42 years in the RSL, it’s fair to say Mr Glover, who left the army with the rank of Major, has spent more time fighting for veterans after they’ve returned home, than he spent fighting the North Vietnamese Army.
“I came back from Vietnam tight at the end – I only had a short time over there,” he said. “In the Vietnam war there wasn’t any need for my battery to be shooting down planes.
“The Yanks were bombing everything from Hanoi down the Ho Chi Minh trail all the way up to Cambodia. There was never any role for us.”
He started at the 9.2-inch gun battery in Wollongong, before transferring to a battery on the Sydney heads – “the best spot in the world”.
Over years of training he had visited some of the most glorious parts of the coast – and lit them up with target practice.
“We’d practice at Wattamolla, we used to do a lot of it until they closed that down. We used to fire them off Bass Point, until they closed that down, too much shipping traffic. We’d go down to Jervis Bay – it was a holiday camp quite frankly.
“It was all good fun … but it wasn’t.”
After Vietnam he was posted at Kogarah, and when he left the army it was that sub-branch of the RSL he joined. He is its president to this day.
Before long he was sitting on committees and being asked to take leadership positions – so he did, serving 14 years as a district of state councillor, and eventually being made a life member.
“In those days there were about 3000 members of the Kogarah sub branch,” he said. “Now I’m down to 64.
“I’d always been interested in the RSL. Look at his PTSD and shell shock – I read a fair bit of military history, it occurred back in the late 1800s but it wasn’t known then what it was.
“I’ve always fought to try and get my soldiers – that’s what I call them; when I was state president I had about 6000 members. I learned where to go and who to see.
“I did everything I could to try and help people put in for their claims, and do whatever I could.”