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Tribute to Major McNutt - Jim Anderton

Hon. Jim Anderton
20 March 2001 Speech Notes

Tribute to Major McNutt

Tribute to Major John McNutt at his military funeral at Burnham Camp, Christchurch

Tuesday March 20 2001

The death on duty of any of our servicemen or women is a loss to all of New Zealand.

In the death of Major John McNutt, that loss is great indeed.

For his immediate family, Mary, Goodwin, and all his brothers and sisters and family, you have lost a son and brother. Lost a son and brother. Those words say it all. There is no greater loss to bear. My personal life experience tells me so. We know of your grief. In close-knit New Zealand, that grief will touch many. You are in our hearts and thoughts.

For his comrades in uniform, you have lost an officer of extraordinary potential – apart from his other training, simply getting through the selection processes for the SAS is a justly-earned badge of honour all on its own. Doing so and retaining one's sense of humour requires great reserves of physical and emotional strength. I understand John had those - in abundance.

Servicemen and women all know that avoiding conflict is the key goal of an armed force. They also know that training for possible conflict is dangerous – let alone conflict itself.

Today we say farewell to and honour your fellow officer and soldier. He served you, and our country. He was, finally, in a situation which turned out to be fatally dangerous. From what I have gathered about this exceptional officer, I have no doubt that he would have wanted you to stand tall, to grieve and then to move on – "always, a little further".

For the great many others who watched this young man grow – as part of his wider family, as friend or neighbour, at St Andrews College, or in other ways – all will today feel the injustice of a young man's early death, the emptiness when someone larger-than-life is suddenly gone, the loss of so much promise.

For the New Zealand Government, this is a loss added to by the circumstances. Our uniformed contribution in Kuwait was always modest in nature and number. But we sent of our best – and today we deeply mourn the loss of that best.

Major McNutt died alongside 5 American servicemen. A Kuwaiti and 5 other American soldiers were seriously injured. Their families, their units, and their governments have also suffered and it is appropriate that we remember them too. My wife and I have a son-in-law in the US Airforce, so I add my personal reasons why I know those forces will feel this loss too.

The American government has not flinched from its responsibilities in this tragedy. The presence here of United States military and diplomatic personnel is tribute to their concern, conveyed to us from the President downwards.

We thank you for that concern; for standing with us today, shoulder to shoulder, as we mourn a fine young man. We know we will together learn the lessons from what happened. We know also that your government, and ours, remains committed to solving the ongoing conflict which has made continued deployment of forces necessary.

We ask you to convey this country's condolences and thoughts to the families and units of those who died alongside Major McNutt.

I ask also, that we think of those servicemen or women who were in the air or on the ground when this accident happened, especially those most closely involved. We acknowledge that they face great stress. As we say farewell to one of ours, we send them good-will.

Our troops have several times in the last hundred years or so been in trenches, deserts or jungles alongside the Stars and Stripes. That is a bond. Today, that bond is made stronger by a tragic blast in a distant desert night.

We honour, and bid farewell to, Major John McNutt - one of New Zealand's finest sons.


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