Masterton RSA President Trevor Thompson being presented with a cheque by Times-Age Circulation Manager Nicky Vegar. PHOTOS/SUPPLIEDRSA

Lisa Urbani

If you spent any time queuing at the supermarket during the covid-19 lockdown, then you will understand what a chore it was, waiting your turn, and then shopping with haste, so as not to hold others up.

Masterton’s Returned Services Association president Trevor Thompson, who served as a combat engineer instructor during his time in the army, did so many times, to assist some of the 270 veterans in Masterton, who required aid with shopping and meals, and deliveries of medication.

For Alan Wadsworth who served in Malaya, “it was a great help”.

“Trevor calls in regularly, at least twice a week and does things for me, I am very grateful, he is very kind, and nothing is too much trouble.”

He also appreciated the meals that were made by Ambassador Caterers’ Tweet Bird – also a veteran from the Vietnam conflict – and had special praise for the biscuits prepared by Tweet’s grandchildren.

Tweet’s response was modest.

RSA president Trevor Thompson with Royal Air Force veteran Charlie Jack

“It’s quite simple, veterans helping veterans, we are there to support each other.”

Having prepared several hundred meals, volunteers were required to help deliver them.

Two of the volunteers were Flight-Sergeant Michelle Novak of the Royal New Zealand Air Force, and her partner, Wing-Commander Bernadette Potham who is retiring from the army.

They were motivated to offer their assistance, knowing that ANZAC Day could not be held as usual due to the covid-19 situation, and that, “it might be a lonely time for veterans who were unable to connect socially”.

“The RSA is struggling, not having been able to have Poppy Day, but Tweet was amazing, and it was good for us, chatting to the vets.

“There are some in their 90s and we made some great friendships.”

Trevor Thompson’s daughter Jolene Newberry, and her husband Nick, also took the opportunity to contribute with financial support, sponsoring 10 meals a week.

“With dad being in the army, I’ve always been around vets and army life, and dad instilled it in us to do the right thing – to look for the opportunity to get stuck in.

“Often, we get so consumed by our own ‘busyness’ and get stuck in our own world.

“Life is tough for some people and I couldn’t help everyone, but I could do this.

“It was important over lockdown to look after our neighbours.”

Trevor was immensely grateful to the neighbours and families of veterans, who helped them during the covid-19 lockdown.

Without the Poppy Day appeal, donations for the welfare fund, which provides financial assistance to veterans, were not forthcoming.

Fortunately, some members of the community have not forgotten their sacrifices.

The Wairarapa Boxing Academy donated several hundred dollars, as did ‘Joe D’ who hosted a Karaoke in the Street fundraiser.

As we have done for several years, the Wairarapa Times Age were delighted to hand over a cheque to the RSA.

The cheque presented was a percentage of the proceeds from the sale of the Wairarapa Times-Age Anzac Day feature.

“Sometimes veterans need monetary help with the necessities of life like hearing aids and glasses, and the funds are used to soften the blow of financial hardship”, Trevor said.

“They have served their country and the RSA is there to provide service to them.”

Visiting is valuable as a morale booster for people who are not able to get out and about.

“I enjoy going to see them, there are some awesome guys among them – like Epineha “Pine” Ratapu who joined the Maori Battalion at 16 and is their last-surviving member.

“He only ever wants some watercress for a boil -up.

“They have become my friends.”