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Hide Speech: We Shall Remember Them

We Shall Remember Them

Speech To Parliament On The Occasion Of The Interment Of The Unknown Warrior; Thursday November 11, 2004.

It is my great privilege to rise on behalf of the ACT party to support the motion today.

Today our country welcomed home a young man from a very distant place and from a distant war. He was a young man when he left and he is a young man still. His friends and his family grew old and are no longer with us. A generation has been born after him, has grown up, has enjoyed living in New Zealand, and has passed on, too. Now it is our turn.

But that young man never grew old, so he was welcomed home to our country a young man. We will never know that New Zealander's - that Unknown Warrior's - name. We will not know where he was born; we do not know precisely where he died. We do not know how he died. His own family is lost to us, just like he was lost to them.

We can use this ceremony today as a reminder of what we have lost in war and what we have gained. The story of the Unknown Warrior is one of extraordinary bravery and incredible sacrifice. It gives to us, through our memories, a deeper faith in our democracy and in ourselves; a deeper understanding of what it is to be a New Zealander.

That Unknown Warrior - that New Zealander - can continue to serve his country. He can be a reminder of our love of peace, and a reminder of the need for our country to be ever-vigilant against brute force, bad faith, injustice, oppression, and persecution, both here in New Zealand and overseas. Only if we remember both those things can that anonymous Kiwi, known only to God, live in peace.

We know through our grandfathers, our fathers, our uncles, our aunties, our neighbours, and our friends that war is glorious only to those who have never experienced it. To those like this Unknown Warrior, war was hell; they knew its horrors. But we must be careful never to link war itself with those who go to war. We should grant to those who go to war respect for the individual contributions their service deserves.

We should honour those who serve our country, just as our Unknown Warrior served his country. We should remember that this Unknown Warrior did not sweat digging trenches in the interests of the self; the sailors on those convoys through those dark nights did not toil there for a dividend; and the nurses on the hospital ships did not work extraordinary hours for praise or notoriety. All of them made their sacrifices for the common good.

Their message is a good one for today, because it is a message about the importance of putting the interests of the community over the self. If we are true to their memory, and if we follow in their footsteps, we can continue to make New Zealand a better place.

Our Unknown Warrior has returned today, not to his family as everyone would have hoped, but to all of us. In reflecting on this young man's return, we are reminded that young men like him will not grow old as we will grow old, and we shall forever remember their sacrifice and their service.

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