Bouquets and brickbats are deserved from this year’s Anzac commemorations.
My bouquet goes to the thousands of people who attended Anzac services across the region and those who helped organise these events. This is a huge show of respect for the scale of sacrifice generations of Nelsonians have made in our armed services from the Boar War, WWI, WWII, Korea, Vietnam, Malaysia and Afghanistan. Silent gratitude is not much good to anyone. I am proud as a Kiwi that far more New Zealanders participate in Anzac Day than many countries on their equivalent remembrance days.
The RSA chose this year to focus on the mental health cost that our returning service men and women suffer. This was aptly illustrated with the story of the tragic suicide of Nelson architect, Sgt Roland Chadwick in 1918 after five years’ service in the medical corps from Gallipoli to the Western Front.
I thank the many who ensured the success of Anzac Day commemorations. People like Nelson RSA President, Dave Lawes, Parade Commander Derek Nees, Brian Ramsay who organises the services at the Wakapuaka and Marsden Cemeteries, our dedicated bugler Mason Robinson and the hundreds of volunteers between the Nelson City Brass Band, Nelson and Districts Pipe Band, our Army, Navy and Airforce Cadets, the Male Voice Choir, Anzac Quartet and Kia Karanga group.
I contrast this collective showing of respect for our armed service personnel with the ongoing campaign by Nicky Hager and Jon Stephenson to discredit our service men and women on their work in Afghanistan. Labour and NZ First deserve a brick bat for their decision to initiate a Government inquiry into their book “Hit and Run” and it was tasteless announcing it just before Anzac Day.
Afghanistan is an ugly hell hole. Islamic bombers last week killed over 30 innocent people in Kabul at a voter registration centre. These Islamic extremists conduct mass murder to stop democratic elections or girls getting an education. We can sit on our comfortable couches tut tutting about such atrocities but it is our brave armed service personnel who confront this barbarism.
I have no problem with questioning and debate over whether armed intervention is the best way to bring peace to a troubled part of the world like Afghanistan or Syria. I favour diplomatic solutions wherever possible.
My problem is the questioning of the integrity of our brave armed service people. The anti Vietnam protestors wrongly vilified our soldiers. I do not doubt that innocent people have been injured or killed by allied military operations in Afghanistan as is inevitable in a war zone. My confidence though, is in New Zealand’s armed services today. They are as brave, professional and deserving of respect as the generations that have served before them.