Glenn Kolomeitz admits he's a sucker for a mission. His latest - to see Afghan interpreters who served with our military evacuated to Australia before they fall into the clutches of the resurgent and vengeful Taliban - occupies much of his time.
"We've identified 240 now and, including their families, there's about 1000 people in danger," the veteran, who served in Timor Leste and Afghanistan, says.
He's working with a group of former army officers who have maintained connections on the ground and are watching the military situation in Afghanistan deteriorate daily. His Canberra-based law firm GAP Veteran and Legal Services wants to speed up the visa processing which, until now, has been progressing at a glacial pace.
"We've got all their names and their passport details so it's not like we're coming in blind. We just need the government to let us do the visa processing. We're geared up and ready to go."
It's not only the "terps" - as the interpreters are known in military shorthand - who are seeking Kolomeitz's help. He is in contact with a senior Afghan government official who has worked closely with Australian forces and wants sanctuary here.
"He's in the frame. The Taliban will take him out, that's a no-brainer."
And as each day passes, the urgency intensifies. Word from Afghanistan, says Kolomeitz, is that Tarin Kowt, the provincial capital of Oruzgan where Australian troops were deployed, is set to fall to the Taliban.
Fear is also rippling through the Afghan capital, Kabul. Pleas for help have also come from journalists and a TV producer who fear for their safety: "He was a producer for the Afghan Football League and he's done a whole lot of shows on women in Afghanistan and the Afghan National Army so he's not very popular with the Taliban."
Kolomeitz's focus has been on the interpreters. He recently helped bring to national attention the plight of one who was forced into hiding after a night letter from the Taliban nailed to his front door told him to prepare for death, punishment for his work with the Australians.
We have a moral obligation, he says, to provide protection for those who served Australia's interests during its longest war.
"You're working with them, they're out there force multiplying your capability and in my experience they're pretty good guys, part of the team going outside the wire. We owe something to these people. That's the personal thing, this personal debt to the people we've worked with. There's also a strategic piece here. If we abandon people who have helped us now what people would ever volunteer to help Australians again?"
Kolomeitz's home office may be a long way from Afghanistan but keepsakes from his two deployments there in 2009 and 2010 take pride of place on the walls, most notable the exquisitely detailed miniatures from Herat.
There are other fragments that speak of a life well travelled - a Javanese rice plough, a samovar picked up in Boston and bookshelves lined with legal volumes and textbooks from his years of study.
His home at Gerroa on the NSW South Coast has sweeping beach views. It's a long way from the caravan park in Scarborough in Queensland where he grew up.
A student of De La Salle, he left in Year 10. "School wasn't doing me any favours. I needed some money so I jumped on a mate's trawler and another mate's crabbing boat."
Encouraged by his father who served in the Army, including in Malaysia during the 1963-1966 Konfrontasi with Indonesia, Kolomeitz entered the ADF in 1986, beginning his career in helicopter maintenance.
"Dad said, 'Get a trade.' There was no university in our family then - that was not even contemplated. But there was an abundance of trades in the defence force so I went down that path."
His father didn't talk much about his military experiences but on a family visit to the War Memorial in Canberra, he opened up at a display relating to the Konfrontasi.
"It's only a small section and there's an old SLR rifle, all beaten up, in there, and a photo of a fallen digger. And Dad's staring at it. He said, 'My fingerprints are on that.' Dad was a section commander when this guy got blown up by an Indonesian mine in a contact. They extracted the soldier and Dad, being the section commander, grabbed the rifle on the way out."
After several hard landings in helicopters, and having lost mates in a Blackhawk crash, Kolomeitz decided he didn't want to fly. He then spent a year studying for his Higher School Certificate equivalent, triggering a lifelong love of learning and leading to his entry into law as an Army legal officer.
His tours of Afghanistan involved the processing of detainees suspected of being Taliban insurgents. He left the ADF in 2013. That's when he embraced another mission - the welfare of veterans broken by their experiences in combat.
Taking on pro bono work for veterans caught in the criminal justice system exacted a toll on his own mental health.
"I get choked up thinking about it now," he says, recalling his breakdown after defending a number of veterans in Wagga Wagga, men with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder who had done tours in Somalia, Timor, Afghanistan and Iraq. They'd found themselves before the courts because of violent outbursts fuelled by PTSD-related alcohol or drug abuse.
"You're drilling down into the stories, the horrendous seven, eight combat tours, kicking in doors, walking on dead babies, all this really bad stuff. You're hearing it over and over and then you've got to get into court and you've got to sell that to magistrate , You've got to say, 'Your Honour, I'm going to tell you a horror story now. This is why my client should not be dealt with by the justice system, should be diverted into treatment.'"
Kolomeitz was driving home after the last case, for which he'd won a good outcome - no conviction but diversion into treatment - when he started bawling.
"At first I thought it was just the pressure, the tension of having to do this, and then you realise you're telling some pretty horrendous stories. And it's not sustainable."
He counts his pro bono mission as a success, despite the financial and emotional cost. Of the 207 cases he took on, 205 veterans were diverted from the criminal justice system and received treatment for the underlying cause of their offences: PTSD. Not one of those successful cases has reoffended.
While he's pared back this work, he directs veterans to other lawyers who can provide legal assistance: "Many of these veterans are on disability benefits, which puts them over the threshold for Legal Aid but they're not earning enough to pay legal costs if they find themselves before the courts".
His advocacy has earned him praise, and not just from the veterans community.
"He's always been there for veterans," says Rick Meehan, chairman of the Keith Payne VC Veterans Benefit Group, a charity named after the Vietnam War hero, who has for 40 years been a staunch advocate for veterans.
One-time political opponent Gareth Ward, against whom Kolomeitz ran as Labor candidate in the 2015 NSW election, now counts him as a friend.
"He's a genuinely good person," Ward says. "I have a lot of respect for him."
But he's also made enemies along the way. Appointed chief executive of the NSW RSL in 2015, Kolomeitz lifted the lid on a series of scandals after launching a forensic audit into the branch's finances.
For his efforts, he was sacked for alleged breach of contract. In 2017, the RSL, under new leadership, issued a public apology and offered $300,000 as settlement.
Kolomeitz says the episode was one of the darkest of his life. He became suicidal and spent time in psychiatric care. "I definitely lost some bark over it," he says now.
As well as campaigning for the resettlement of interpreters, he has been keeping what he calls "legal overwatch" over the Brereton inquiry and its subsequent damning report into alleged war crimes by Australian special forces in Afghanistan.
He's concerned that veterans compelled to give evidence to the inquiry know their legal rights and obligations should the Australian Federal Police come knocking as part of their follow-up investigation.
For now, however, the focus is firmly on the "terps" because they face imminent danger. Theirs is a story repeated throughout history and one close to Kolomeitz's own family, who he says were also refugees.
His grandparents fled Soviet Russia in the 1930s during Stalin's purges and settled in Harbin in China before resettling in Australia.
For this lawyer the mission is personal.
Sign up for our newsletter to stay up to date.