Mungar man awarded Medal of the Order of Australia
BATTLES with cancer haven't stopped Mungar man Donald Jones from helping other veterans to live comfortably in their senior years.
Assisting ex-service men and women to receive their pensions has been the Tiaro RSL president's life's work - he has helped thousands of veterans in the Fraser Coast with the difficult task.
"If you are a veteran, you have to bust your gut to get it; it is not good," he said.
"If we didn't (help) no one else would."
Mr Jones's outstanding contribution to veterans' affairs, which has occupied the past 19 years of his life, was acknowledged last Tuesday with one the of the highest honours that can be bestowed on an Australian.
The 77-year-old was presented with a Medal of the Order of Australia by Governor of Queensland Paul de Jersey at a small ceremony at Government House in Brisbane.
"It was such a simple and marvellous ceremony," Mr Jones said.
"I went in stressed out completely and came back floating.
"We even had the Queensland Governor playing with the police dog he was training. I was blown away by the simplicity."
With about 40 RSL sub-branches in the Wide Bay Burnett district that accommodate a 5000-strong veteran community, alongside the same amount again thought to be in the area but unaccounted for, Mr Jones said helping ex-service men and women needed to become a top priority for all levels of government.
But it is a tricky task - the area is serviced by only 10 pensions officers and 6 advocacy officers who take on similar responsibilities, he said.
"We are extremely thin on the ground and some of us are impaired and aged," Mr Jones said.
"My major concern is that if a man is married, who is going to look after his wife after he goes, when she could get some kind of war widow's pension.
"If they don't get the pension, if they just go off and die, no one is going to help".
He said anyone who had served could come to him at any time for a confidential chat and get advice on the help available.
As well as Tiaro RSL sub-branch president, Mr Jones is also a pensions and advocacy officer for the sub-branch.
Mr Jones, who prefers to be called Don, was deployed to Malaya in the early 1960s to serve in the East Air Force, when the Indonesian confrontation broke out.
He was then sent to Thailand's Ubon Ratchathani province to help build an airfield - he signed up for the Australian Air Force as a nineteen year old and served for twenty-two years.
But protecting Australia's national interests is something that runs deep in the DNA of the Jones family.
Not only was Mr Jones's grandfather, who was his primary caregiver, a WWI veteran, his own son Sean continued the tradition.
Sean, who now lives in Bundaberg, served in the Australian Air Force for 24 years and was deployed to Afghanistan.
He met his wife Valerie in the late 1950s while the two were in service.