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73-year-old ex-commando forms special bond with chef

A former commando battling the heartache of Parkinson’s disease has found an ally in the most unexpected of places – the kitchen of his Bangalow aged care home.

David Hales, who served with the elite 1st Commando Regiment in the 1970s, has called Feros Village Bangalow home for the past five years as the degenerative neurological disorder takes an increasing toll on his mobility and speech.

Having opted not to embrace his military roots for decades, the 73-year-old has had a change of heart in recent years – hence the huge smile that came across his face when he discovered the village’s head chef had also served his country.

Head Chef Scott and Bangalow resident David share a special bond

“David can’t really talk anymore but I’ll never forget that smile,” said Scott Falls, who rose to the rank of Warrant Officer Class 2 during his 22 years as a catering manager in the Australian Army, including a tour of East Timor.

“When I started at Feros 18 months ago, they mentioned they had a couple of residents who were veterans and I later saw a green beret and couple of military photos in David’s room.

“Then last Anzac Day I saw him and his son at the march in Ballina and went over to thank him for his service. When he realised I was in uniform and wearing my own medals, his face just lit up.

Not a lot of people at the village know of my military background. They think I’m just the chef who sits out the back but David and I definitely have a special bond.

“We both know we’re veterans and he’s always got a smile or nod for me these days.”

Mr Hales, who was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease 30 years ago, moved from Scone to Ballina just over a decade ago to be closer to his three children and their families.

Five years ago they entrusted his care to the team at Feros Village Bangalow, with youngest child Scott touched to learn of the special relationship that had formed between his father and the head chef.

“It’s awesome,” he said.

“Like many veterans, Dad never talked about his time in the army. It wasn’t until he moved into Feros that he showed any interest in Anzac Day marches or things like that.

“For his 70th birthday, we actually made a little glass cabinet for him so he could display his green beret, medals and a few other things.

“His Parkinson’s means he’s now at a stage where he can’t talk about the past but it’s lovely to see him not only celebrating his service but embracing the likes of Scott and recognising them as peers.”

As for what Mr Falls thinks of the former commando he cooks for?

“Dave always gets a little bit of extra service from me,” he smiled. “It’s nice to be able to serve him so long after he’s served our country.”

As the nation prepares to mark Anzac Day on April 25, Feros Village Bangalow recently played host to Bangalow RSL Sub-Branch, with residents and members joining together for  commemoration and conversation.

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