Stephen Hicks dedicated decades of his life to helping veterans and their families.
It is for that service that the Fingal Bay man, a veteran himself, has been named as a Medal of the Order of Australia (OAM) recipient in this year’s Australia Day honours list.
However, the honour is bittersweet for the Hicks family who are still mourning the loss of the man who has been described as “very friendly” and a “do anything for anybody sort of person”.
Mr Hicks died on December 13, 2017 following a rapid decline in his health during the year.
He was 67 years old. Mr Hicks is survived by his wife, Janina, and three sons.
The OAM recognises Mr Hicks’ service to the Returned Services League of Australia (RSL), Port Stephens Veterans Aged Care and the Soldiers Point Halls and Reserves Committee.
Mr Hicks was a member of the Nelson Bay RSL Sub-Branch. During that time he was the pensions advocate officer.
Additionally, Mr Hicks sat on the Veterans Review Board for 10 years.
Russell Durrant, secretary of the Nelson Bay RSL Sub-Branch, said Mr Hicks’ loss has been felt deeply.
“It was a sad loss. He did excellent work and assisted a lot of veterans all over, not just in Nelson Bay, with their pension dealing with the Department of Veteran Affairs,” Mr Durrant said.
“He will be sadly missed – as a friend and for all his magnificent veterans work.”
Mr Hicks, originally from Wollongong, joined the RAAF in his late teens. Following his training, he was deployed to be part of the air field defence in Vietnam during the war.
He then transferred to No. 9 Squadron and became a gunner on the UH-1 Iroquois helicopters, also known as Hueys. The squadron transported troops.
Mr Hicks received a number of commendations for his service. In December 2016, Mr Hicks and along with fellow RAAF personnel in No. 9 Squadron between June 1966 and December 1971 received the Republic of Vietnam Cross of Gallantry with Palm Unit Citation.
In addition to being a member of the Nelson Bay RSL Sub-Branch for close to 20 years, Mr Hicks was a board member of Port Stephens Veterans Aged Care – the group behind the Harbourside Haven aged care homes in Fingal Bay, Shoal Bay and Salamander Bay – for five years.
Mr Hicks was the secretary and treasurer of the Soldiers Point Halls and Reserves committee between 2005 and 2010.