BROTHERS Neil and Trevor McLennan and Ian Carter, along with their late mate Jack Tapp, are formally listed in the annals of state heroes.
On Thursday the trio were in Sydney at Government House where NSW Governor Marie Bashir awarded them the Governor General's Group Bravery Citation.
The award was recognition of their heroic efforts in the aftermath of the Nymboida Mine explosion on January 12, 1976.
Neil McLennan can remember it clearly.
"Jack Tapp and I were the two most senior people there and when we realised there was still a bloke still in the mine we decided we had to go back in," he said.
"Jack, Trevor and I were preparing to go in when this other bloke (Ian Carter) said you're not going without me."
The four made their way into the mine and "after a few tricky experiences" found the missing man sitting where he had died at the coal face.
"It looked like he had died straight away," Neil said.
None of three remaining rescuers view their actions as heroic.
"It was something you had to do at the time," Neil said.
Their actions on that day have bonded the three over the 36 years that have elapsed.
"We're great mates and we catch up as often as we can," Neil said.
"We had a great time down in Sydney, but it was a sad moment to relive."
Their actions that day are the subject of a documentary, Last Man Standing, screened for the first time on television on Friday night on pay TV's History Channel.
Film director Paddy Gorman was in Sydney with the men on Thursday.
He said it was the film that prompted the awards for the men.
The documentary also records the history of the mine from 1975 when the miners revolted and took it over.
"What they achieved changed coal mining in Australia from that time on," Mr Gorman said.