Thomas Henry ‘Buddy’ Lea, a South Sea Islander, was born and raised in Rockhampton and later moved to Bowen, north Queensland. He enlisted in the Army in 1960 at age 20 after two years of National Service.
On 18 August 1966 Buddy found himself as a section commander patrolling with the 6th Battalion, The Royal Australian Regiment’s D Company in a rubber tree plantation in Long Tan, Vietnam when they came up against the enemy. For three and a half hours, in torrential rain and mud, the 108 Australian diggers fought against a regiment of 2,500 North Vietnamese soldiers.
Buddy was shot three times while trying to pull a mate to safety and spent five months in hospital recovering. He spent 33 years in the Army.