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Last parade day for Len

Veteran Len Usher who served with the 2RAR in Malaya.
Veteran Len Usher who served with the 2RAR in Malaya. Scottie Simmonds

TODAY is an extra special day for 73-year-old war veteran Len Usher and his family.

His siblings, children, grandchildren and wife will proudly watch on as the returned serviceman pushes his wheelchair through the Gin Gin Anzac Day parade, his war medals pinned firmly to his jacket for what may be the final time.

"It'll probably be my last one," he said as he gazed out over his peaceful Bungadoo property.

Mr Usher, who lost both his legs in a freak military training accident, has been battling terminal prostate cancer since 1999.

"There's no question that any further treatment would be non-productive," he said.

But ill health will not rain on the former sergeant's Anzac Day parade, and today's celebrations will be a reminder of how people like him fought courageously for their country.

Mr Usher was a 24-year-old lance corporal when he was deployed to Malaya during 2RAR's second tour of the country from 1961-63.

His duty was to scour dense jungle to find and kill communist guerillas, who were largely made up of resident Chinese and Malayan people.

"We were pussy-footing through the bush trying to find these people," he said.

"In certain places, you never knew what was in front of you - you could get shot at quite easily."

Mr Usher cheated death multiple times during his two years of service, with disease almost claiming his life twice.

"I contracted Weil's disease - also known as leptospirosis," he said.

The disease - which is born through an open sore or by coming into contact with rat urine - put the soldier in hospital for a month.

"The nursing staff said I lost three stone in three days - not to be recommended," he said.

Mr Usher bounced back from the sickness, only to contract malaria a short time later, which meant another two-week stint in hospital.

It was his brush with native Malaya wildlife that is etched in his memory, including what could have been a nasty confrontation with a wild elephant.

"All we had in the way of weapons was owen guns, which would have been useless if the elephant had decided to do anything," he said.

"Luckily, it didn't."

Two years after he returned home, Mr Usher was participating in a training exercise at Enoggera in Brisbane when a mine exploded and he lost both legs.

"I'd been married for 18 months," he said.

Despite staring into the face of adversity, Mr Usher continues to live by his motto, "carpe diem", Latin for "seize the day".

"You only get one bite of the cherry - make the most of what you've got," he said.

Topics:  anzac day, diggers, gin gin, veteran, war


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