BILL Ryan fought at Kokoda to protect Australia from the Japanese in World War II.
Now, more than 70 years later, he is fighting another battle that he maintains is every bit as important.
At the age of 91, Mr Ryan has travelled from Sydney to stand with environmentalists in the Leard State Forest.
He is willing to risk both his liberty and his health to disrupt construction of Whitehaven Coal’s mine at Maules Creek.
Speaking to The Leader from the blockade’s front line yesterday, Mr Ryan said the open-cut mine, from which up to 13 million tonnes of coal will be extracted each year, should not go ahead.
“I’m a veteran of World War II and fought in the Kokoda campaign and there was a battle against the Japanese to save the land,” he said.
“There is a bigger battle today to save our land and our planet, because we’ve been upping the use of fossil fuels and I feel there’s no future for our young ones unless we turn to renewables.”
Last week, NSW Minerals Council chief executive officer Stephen Galilee described the protesters as “a small group of usual suspects”.
But Mr Ryan, who is legally blind and had to be accompanied to the protest site by his 65-year-old son, clearly does not fit the stereotype.
“There are people from all walks of life here, including a number with university degrees,” he said.
“I think it’s a really good mix and the people are looking after me and providing me with shade, which I’m really appreciative of.”