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PM Presents Medals To Families Of Soldiers

Prime Minister Helen Clark today presented New Zealand Memorial Crosses to the families of three New Zealand soldiers who died while serving in East Timor.

The three soldiers were Warrant Office Tony Walser, Staff Sergeant William White, and Private Leonard Manning.

Helen Clark said the medals are a formal recognition by the government and the people of New Zealand of the contribution made by the soldiers and their families.

"New Zealand willingly volunteered to help East Timor through its transition to independence but tragically three of our soldiers have paid with their lives.

"Having visited our soldiers in East Timor, I know that our New Zealand soldiers are serving in an especially unstable area close to the Indonesian border with poor roading access. They perform an exceedingly dangerous task. But our being there has made a big difference.

"Last year the entire New Zealand Parliament backed the sending of New Zealanders to East Timor. The price has been high with the death of these three servicemen. Yet we continue to believe that the presence of United Nations peacekeepers in East Timor at this time of transition is essential to giving that small country a new beginning.

"The government, on behalf of all New Zealanders, shares with the families of Warrant Office Tony Walser, Staff Sergeant William White, and Private Leonard Manning a deep sorrow over their deaths. I hope these medals will show our thanks for the contributions their loved ones have made in the service of their country," Helen Clark said.

The New Zealand Memorial Cross was instituted by King George VI in 1947 for award to the next of kin of New Zealanders who died while on active service (military operations) during the Second World War. In 1960 The Queen extended the award of the Cross to those who have died in operations since the Second World War.

It is a small silver cross bearing the royal cypher in the centre and fern fronds on each arm. The name of the deceased is engraved on the back of the cross. More than one Cross may be awarded (eg. for a widow and parents of a deceased solider). The Crosses may be worn by the next of kin.

Crosses are presented by the Prime Minister on behalf of the government and people of New Zealand.

Warrant Office Tony Michael Walser died in East Timor on 30 November 1999 as a result of a vehicle accident. He was aged 37.

Staff Sergeant William (Bill) Edward White died in East Timor on 25 April 2000 as the result of a vehicle accident. He was aged 38.

Private Leonard William Manning died in East Timor on 24 July 2000 as the result of an armed confrontation. He was aged 24.

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