“You’re not traveling too well young Brent. I think you better think about retiring. If you don’t do that, your next appointment will be with a funeral home.”
Humbling words for a then 50 year old.
Remembrance Day in 1998 will forever be ingrained in Brent Clyne’s memory as the day his doctor issued the stark warning.
“I became a gentleman of leisure with a bag of crap on my shoulders.”
But it was the reality check the Vietnam veteran needed, for his life had spiralled to the point of no return.
“When I was working, I couldn’t work out what was wrong and I couldn’t decide whether to become a workaholic or an alcoholic, so I did both. That was the picture of many veterans and some never come out of it.”
Fortunately, Brent had a supportive wife and a strong medical team.
He spent the next almost two years in and out of rehab until finally hearing the words from his medical team that he wasn’t sure he was going to live to hear.
“I think we’ve just about cured you, you better find a hobby, son.”
Brent had a tumultuous start with the RSL after returning from Vietnam in 1971, but in 1994 he decided to “bury the hatchet” as he puts it, and try again.
So began a slow and steady relationship with the League, and the Vietnam Veterans Association.
"I started to help the guys who couldn’t help themselves."
He has served in several positions at two Sub-Branches and solidified his volunteering efforts across a range of areas, where he is able to focus on channelling his own personal experiences for the betterment of others.
He is currently a Senior Advocate and the Secretary of the Seaford RSL.
"I’ve got a reason to wake up, earlier I didn’t have a reason."
Part of his dedicated volunteering efforts includes the hundreds of RSL funeral tributes he has delivered over the years.
“I would call it the last act of welfare the RSL could offer,” he says with a quiver in his voice.
The 73 year old says volunteering is a credit to the Australian spirit.
"I understand there is a role for paid professionals to lead and manage but volunteering, whether it be for the RSL, Surf Lifesaving, the SES, whatever it is, the job satisfaction or whatever you want to call it is, at the end of the day, worth it. It’s very Australian."