SOME 71 years after leaving the armed forces, 92-years-young double amputee Bruce Rickert recently joined the Bangalow Returned Services League at a special ceremony.
Mr Rickert, a former sawmill manager, was visibly moved when presented with his badge by RSL State Vice-President Peter Stephenson OAM at his residence Bangalow's Feros Village.
He said it was the realisation of a long held desire.
"Eventually it came my way and I feel really good,” he said.
"I wasn't old enough when the war started, my dad Charlie enlisted in the VDC and the next Sunday I joined them.”
According to Bangalow sub-branch secretary Col Draper, Mr Rickert joined up on 21 April 1942 aged 18 in his home town of Bellingen and served until 26 September 1945.
"This was Australia's version of the British Dad's Army,” he said.
"In the years to come, Bruce worked at his regular job and learned the special skills of a soldier, with the 16th Battalion Volunteer Defence Corps in Bellingen.”
Mt Draper said when he first met Mr Rickert earlier this year at an Anzac Day event, he asked for the former VDC solider why he had never joined the RSL.
"I think he went through life thinking he would like to join, but that you had to have served overseas to be eligible,” he said with a smile.
"I told him as long as he had served he was able to join and he just said 'that would be bloody lovely'”.
Mr Draper said the Bangalow sub-branch members were really pleased to welcome their newest recruit who lost his legs a few years earlier to vascular disease.
"Bruce might have lost his legs but he has not lost his power of speech,” he said.
"He has a fantastic memory.”
Mr Stephenson who travelled from Lake Macquarie for the ceremony said the occasion was of special significance to everyone attending, including Mr Rickert's daughter Pam Buck.
He said now Mr Rickerts was part of the RSL which is built on the camaraderie and bond of mateship.
"He was very emotional and it was a very special event because this man was served during WW2 and had never been a member of the RSL,” he said.
"And now the members of the Bangalow RSL are committed to visit him and ensure he is looked after by them.”
According to Mr Stephenson, quite a few people who joined up buy did not serve overseas were under the impression they were ineligible to join the organisation.
"It's a common misconception that you needed to be 'returned',” he said.
"But anyone who has served in the Australian forces is very welcome to join.”
Mr Stephenson said he was greatly impressed by Mr Rickert's zest for life.
"He is man with an amazing memory and I could have said listened to him for hours,” he said.