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Commemorating past and present sacrifices

Leaders across the region are uniting to celebrate Anzac Day and commemorate service people past and present.

Featherston RSA president Peter Jackson – a New Zealand Defence Force [NZDF] major who has retired from active service, with 28 years in the forces – said Featherston will have a dawn and a 9am service.

“The dawn service is at the Featherston cemetery. We have one of only two government-funded crosses of sacrifice in the country, from what I understand,” he said.

He estimated about 60 had attended the early service last year and is expecting a good turnout this year.

“Anzac day gives us an opportunity to reflect on the service and the sacrifice of those who have gone before us and allowed us the freedom we enjoy today. We have noticed a trend of more people, including younger people, coming along, which is wonderful to see,” Jackson said.

It is also an opportunity to recognise people who served more recently, with Jackson noting many dedicated NZDF staff are currently deployed overseas.

“They are still out there doing it,” Jackson said.

“They are deployed on UN-type operations, in disaster relief and in humanitarian assistance, either in New Zealand or the South Pacific.

“There is a cohort of younger veterans out there. We estimate there are somewhere in the vicinity of 30,000 young veterans since 1990 who have been overseas on deployment in places like Bosnia, Somalia, Sierra Leone, East Timor and other places.”

Carterton mayor Ron Mark is a former New Zealand Minister of Defence and Minister of Veterans Affairs who served in the New Zealand Army, as well as being patron of Featherston RSA. He agreed that while the past fallen should be honoured, there is also a need to acknowledge sacrifices made by the living.

“We have been ignoring contemporary veterans for a long time. These are not old men and women, they are hidden among you,” he said, adding many face real issues transitioning back into civilian life.

On Anzac day, while Mark will think about fallen comrades and family members and his own six years of service in the middle east, he will also be honouring current veterans, serving NZDF personnel, and those returned from theatres of war overseas.

“I will be thinking about those young men and women who have slipped quietly back into the country, many carrying trauma with them for the
rest of their lives,” he said.

“You will recognise them because they will be wearing medals, alive and in front of you. This is an opportunity to think about how the government and others can support veterans and military personnel alive today.”

Wairarapa MP Kieran McAnulty said the day has personal and national significance for him.

“My grandfather, Pat Monaghan, was a soldier in the 25th battalion during WWII. He and many from the neighbouring farms in Newman caught the train from Eketahuna to head off to war. Miraculously, all of them returned,” McAnulty said.

Monaghan suffered as a prisoner of war in Europe for nearly four years.

“The things he experienced were horrific, and he only talked of them in his last few years. I remember sitting up late at night, unable to comprehend the stories he was sharing,” McAnulty said.

“I have numerous relatives commemorated on Anzac Bridge at Kaipororo, just south of Eketahuna, so I always make an effort to attend the annual service there.”

McAnulty said on Anzac Day, he will be remembering his grandfather, and commemorating those who lost their lives and served New Zealand in WWI, WWII and later conflicts.

Masterton mayor Gary Caffell said it is a special day for the whole country.

“It’s a day when we can take time to remember and acknowledge the tremendous service and sacrifice given by our service men and women – not only in conflicts over the past century or more but in peace-keeping and community support roles in more recent times.”

Caffell agreed it is important to remember the work NZDF staff do now.

“This will certainly be familiar to the people of Masterton,” he said, noting the recent support of the NZ Army 5th/7th Battalion, RNZIR, in the aftermath of Cyclone Gabrielle.

South Wairarapa mayor Martin Connelly will attend the Lake Ferry service. He said the day has personal significance as his father and his grandfather had both seen active service in the world wars.

“Most people were badly affected by their experiences in the war,” he said.

Connelly acknowledged the special significance the world wars have for the region.

“The largest training camp in WW1 was here in Featherston. It gives the war an immediacy around here it doesn’t have in many other places.”

    A list of Wairarapa Anzac Day services can be found on pages 17-21 in today’s Times-Age.

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