Nor West News : September 1st 2011
www.aucklandnow.co .nz Thursday, September 1, 2011 Medals at last for vet Recognised at last: War medals are presented to 89-year-old Don Cooper of Shelly Beach, left, by longtime friend Barry Horne of Muriwai. By CARYN WIGMORE ‘ The smile I got when I gave him the medals was fantastic, poor old fella. ’ Barry Horne Longtime friend THE Kaipara Returned Services Association is being accused of turning its back on an old soldier who is dying. Don Cooper of Shelly Beach was not recognised with war medals for serving in Crete and Italy 65 years ago with the fourth battalion infantry of the New Zealand Army. The 89-year-old has just been diagnosed with terminal bowel cancer. News of the ill- ness prompted longtime friend Barry Horne to call on the Kaipara RSA for help to glean Mr Cooper’s missing medals. But the RSA maintains the veteran was ‘‘lost in the sys- tem’’. Mr Horne was upset by the service’s lack of action, stepped in and applied to Trentham military camp for the long lost medals – the Italy Star, the 1939-1945 War Medal and the New Zealand War Service Medal. Mr Horne of Muriwai is delighted to finally present the awards to his fishing com- panion. ‘‘The smile I got when I gave him the medals was fan- tastic, poor old fella,’’ he says. ‘‘I will never forget that.’’ Mr Horne says his friend would give you the shirt off his back if you asked for it. And the feeling is mutual for Mr Cooper who reckons he’s been ‘‘very lucky to get the medals’’. ‘‘Barry couldn’t have done any better.’’ Mr Horne says he asked the Kaipara RSA to apply for medals for Mr Cooper, who was a paying member of the association until 2002 when he let his membership lapse. He says the old soldier stopped going to the RSA to avoid drinking and driving. A spokesman for the Kaipara RSA says there is no record of Mr Cooper’s mem- bership in the system and he was disappointed by Mr Horne’s attitude. However, ‘‘It’s a free world; that’s what they went to war for.’’ Family members were wel- come to apply for his medals. Mr Horne is also appalled the RSA failed to visit Mr Cooper in hospital after being told he was being admitted. A welfare officer for the RSA says he was unaware Mr Cooper was terminally ill. He sympathises with the family and is happy to visit Mr Coo- per, who is ‘‘ a friendly kind of guy’’. Mr Horne describes the veteran as a ‘‘tough old fella who won’t give up’’ despite terminal bowel cancer which has spread to his liver and has seen him ‘‘go downhill in the last six months’’. ‘‘He’s one of those jokers who’d put up with the pain and not tell anyone about it.’’ Mr Cooper fell over and broke his hip – ‘‘that’s really given him gyp’’. The veteran is still keen to go fishing for scallops on the Kaipara Harbour even though he is hobbling on crutches and sporting two pins in his hip. ‘‘He said, ‘Well, I’m going out fishing even if you have to lift me and put me in the boat’,’’ Mr Horne says.
August 25th 2011
September 8th 2011