Mike Lee may have hung up the uniform of his past but his sense of duty and camaraderie are woven into the fabric of his present.
“When I signed up, I found a whole family and I still call them brothers and sisters today,” the veteran said.
“I come from a Korean background and I came here [Australia] in 1972 as a refugee. I loved this country from the very beginning.
“I think the support and opportunities gave me a need to give back. For me, it was about honour and duty.”
The Cherrybrook resident still wears his battalion pin with pride.
“Until my last breath I know the discipline I was taught, the comradeship I was given, and the feeling of knowing someone has my back, will be with me.”
Mr Lee enlisted in the Australian Army in 1985 and was posted to Townsville with the Royal Australian Infantry.
“My period of service was in between wars. There were a lot of peacekeeping missions,” Mr Lee said. “I did three months in Malaysia with the Rifle Company Butterworth. We were on standby for the first Fijian coup so our unit was ready to assist in evacuating Australians.”
Mr Lee spent five and a half years with the Australian army before returning to Sydney.
Now, he dedicates hours to helping and visiting veterans as a welfare officer with the Castle Hill RSL Sub-Branch.
Mr Lee said it was his “passion” to be an advocate for both ageing and young veterans across the district.
“The benefits that we bring to the people is tangible,” he said.
“We probably average anywhere between 400 and 600 visits per month. Some people are stuck in hospitals and sometimes they have no families or friends to visit them. It makes a big difference on their morale.
“We get as much as we put in.”
The former soldier will join his ‘brothers and sisters’ to pay tribute to the sacrifices of those who gave their lives for Australia.
“Anzac Day is a day for remembrance,” Mr Lee said. “For us, it’s a day that we remember those who have gone before us.
“We have lost a lot of good friends - both in service and after service. We remember our mates and commemorate their passing.
“It keeps us together.”