Honour for navy diver

MEMBER for Eden-Monaro Mike Kelly presented former Australian Navy diver Tony Foster with a Service Medal at Bega Hospital earlier this month, the culmination of lots of behind the scenes work from one of Bega’s pastoral carers.

Allen Collins, who has worked in pastoral care with his wife Jill for eight years, met former navy diver Mr Foster in Bega Hospital 12 months ago.

Mr Foster has spent 25 months in hospital after being diagnosed with a cancerous tumour on his bowel in 2010, which saw him undergo operations in Bega, Canberra and Sydney.

“When we first met his morale was quite low and I wanted something to lift his spirits,” Mr Collins said.

“We often talked about his service because I am the RSL liaison with pastoral care and one day I asked him about any medals he might be owed.”

Mr Collins discovered that Mr Foster was entitled to a Service Medal relating to his nine years in the navy and through the RSL was able to organise former serviceman Mr Kelly to present it.

Mr Kelly and Mr Collins were joined by Bega RSL sub-branch president Gary Berman, Bega RSL naval representative and former petty officer Mick Symon and Mayor Bill Taylor at Bega Hospital to acknowledge Mr Foster’s achievements in the navy.

Mr Foster’s family including his parents and his children Brooke and Joel were also in attendance.

“It’s a real privilege for me to acknowledge your service to this nation,” Mr Kelly said.

“Naval diving training is as hard as anything that’s done in the special forces, they have to be exceptionally fit and do risky and hard training.

“Just surviving in that marine environment and the skill involved for the tasks, I cannot have enough admiration for the people that do that job.

“This medal acknowledges all the sacrifice that you made for your nation as a service person, and by putting yourself in the position where you could fully and faithfully serve the nation.”

Mr Foster, who is originally from Bombala, joined the navy in 1979 where he trained as a ship’s diver and steward.

He served on several vessels including the Jervis, Ardent, Swan and Vampire.

When he left the navy after nine years he worked as a diving instructor and in the abalone industry.

In 2010 Mr Foster was ready to return to South East Asia where he had been working, when he went to the doctor for what he thought was ongoing indigestion.

“Before I knew it I was in Bega Hospital and I’ve pretty much been here ever since,” Mr Foster said.

“Three doctors have told me I should be dead, but when I hear things like that it just makes me fight harder.

Mr Foster hopes to be placed on the list for a bowel transplant at a Melbourne hospital, but the criteria includes a level of fitness and health he is currently working towards.

“I’m in this for the long haul, my next goal is to be walking around soon and I recently took a few steps so I’m getting there.”

“I have to be here for my parents and my children, so I will get better for them.”

• Tony Foster is presented with a Service Medal at a ceremony attended by (from left) Bega RSL sub-branch president Gary Berman, Bega RSL naval representative Mick Symon, Member for Eden-Monaro Mike Kelly and Mayor Bill Taylor.

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