THE WELFARE of ex-service personnel is what drives ex-Commander Richard Usher of Shoalwater.
The Defence Force Welfare Association president was awarded a Medal of the Order of Australia for his service to the welfare of veterans.
“It’s pretty amazing, I was very surprised – I have absolutely no idea who nominated me and I’ll give them a ‘what for’ when I do find out,” Mr Usher said.
“I’m ex-navy and I was always told loyalty goes both ways – up and down.
“There are so many others who deserve recognition. I facilitate getting grants and money for veterans from all three services, army, air force and navy.”
The biggest group he currently helps are ex-Middle East personnel and some Vietnam vets.
“Some of these were involved with the F11s and the fuelling issues those jets had,” he said.
“It’s left a chemical legacy affecting many of them and we help them put claims into the Department of Veteran Affairs.
“We also keep a social program for the general welfare of our members.”
Mr Usher said one case stood out among the many he had worked on.
“There was an ex-army man who was putting himself through a law degree at university,” he said
“His wife had just had her second baby in the last semester of his degree and there was no money coming in.
“They were finding things really difficult and he was about to leave his study.
“It would have been such a waste, all those years of study down the drain.
“We got him a grant and paid his mortgage for two months and he was able to complete his degree.
“He managed to get over the hump and is now working as a lawyer – it was an absolutely fantastic story.
“We have also helped some of the ex-servicemen affected by the Yarloop fires.”
He said his focus of late had been getting assistance dogs for veterans.
“PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder) is a thing – it’s alive and well, we are working with Whiskey’s Wish, a group that trains puppies to be assistance dogs particularly for ex-military personnel,” he said.
“They are trained to recognise anxiety and stress and then calm down their owners when they do recognise it.”