Buddy Lea (second from right) prepares to lay a wreath with other war veterans at Granville State School's Anzac Day service earlier this year.
Buddy Lea (second from right) prepares to lay a wreath with other war veterans at Granville State School's Anzac Day service earlier this year. Robyne Cuerel

Your final battle has ended, rest in peace Buddy

AFTER battling lung cancer for three months, Vietnam War veteran Buddy Lea succumbed to the disease at the Hervey Bay Hospital at midnight on Friday, at the age of 75.

With family by his side, he died peacefully.

Thomas Henry Lea, better known as Buddy, served for 35 years in the Australian Army and was admired by his comrades.

He sustained three gunshot wounds while trying to drag an injured mate to safety.

His superior in the Battle of Long Tan, Lieutenant Colonel Harry Smith (retired), is in a state of shock and said Buddy had seemed fine when they shared lunch a couple of weeks ago.

Buddy Lea in Hervey Bay in 2009.
Buddy Lea in Hervey Bay in 2009.

"He was given chemo on the Thursday before last but soon after, his kidneys failed and he was admitted to the hospital a few days later.

"I went to see him on the Friday before he passed away and he was in a semi-coma.

"I spoke to him and he opened his eyes but he couldn't speak."

Lt Col Smith described Buddy as the happiest person, who lit up any room.

"He was one of four indigenous soldiers that I had in my team.

"He was an excellent soldier, he was very brave and one of the most loyal people I've ever come across."

His bravery was commended by the Australian army.

After Buddy was shot during the Battle of Long Tan on August 18, 1966, he spent five weeks at a hospital in Vietnam and came back to Australia.

Eventually he recovered and served until 1995.

Hervey Bay RSL Sub-Branch vice president Brian Tidyman visited Buddy on the day he died but Buddy was asleep.

"My daughter kissed him and Buddy's forehead moved but he didn't open his eyes so I told him to rest in peace," Mr Tidyman said.

"I will miss his mateship but I'm quite happy he is in peace.

"He had this infectious laugh and everybody would feel his presence.

"I think his proudest accomplishments were his time in the army.

"He served in Borneo, Malaya and Vietnam."

A funeral for Buddy is expected to be held this week.



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