WAYNE LEO By Percy Angilley, 8/9 RAR
Wayne Leo was the Line Section Commander of Signal Platoon, Support Company 8/9 RAR. This man was a dynamo and even young Lego (Peter Lergessner), his protégée couldn’t keep up.
On one battalion exercise our CO ordered us to advance with radio silence and hence Line Section and Wayne Leo came into their glory. At one time they had 37 miles of line on the ground (the Bn issue was 20 miles that I remember – but that’s another story). They were laying and picking up by vehicle and foot where the vehicles couldn’t go. At one position the CO wanted to talk to a flanking company and the only line Wayne had was a one-mile reel and himself, so he picked it up and ran off into the bush in the direction of the company. To lift and carry one of these reels for a short distance required some strength but to run with it under your arm is something only Leo could do.
A few years later, after a battalion get-together, Wayne had a few drinks and on his way home came off his motorbike – this left him a paraplegic. When I first visited him in hospital my girlfriend brought a XXXX stubby for him between her breasts (which were very large). This cracked Wayne up and he was also very appreciative. Over the next few weeks I watched this mountain of a man waste away due to being bed ridden – this was very disheartening.
The next time I saw him was several months later at a battalion parade for something. Wayne was on the guest of honour list and I was his escort. Wayne turned up at Bn HQ, which was at the top of the hill, in his new wheelchair. Nearly everyone was down around the parade ground and we were directed to take our place in the VIP section. So I started to push Wayne down the road and he told me to let go. When I challenged him, he again told me to let go. He flipped backwards on the slope of the hill and balanced himself – so I did. He screamed down the hill doing 20 to 30 kms, swung around the access road onto the parade ground and up the small ramp built for him to gain access onto the dais area. He parked himself as though nothing had happened. The CO said, “I see nothing has changed except you have a new means of transport.”
Wayne was awarded the OAM in 2012 for his volunteer work.
“Wayne, from Riverhills in Brisbane, is a founding member of the
Association’s Spinal Education Awareness Team (SEAT) program and has spoken to almost 300,000 children since the program was established 25 years ago. Wayne continues to travel across the state to educate children from Prep to Year 12 about how to stay safe and injury free, including regular Outback odysseys spanning 10 days and many thousands of kilometres to speak to children in remote and rural Queensland. “If I can prevent just one child from permanently injuring themselves, then my goal in life has been achieved. The SEAT program relies on presenters like me making a connection with every child that we speak to,” Wayne said. (Quote from Spinal Injuries Association).