Helen Clark Address - Mt Albert Anzac Day Service
Tuesday 25 April 2006
Rt Hon Helen Clark
Mt Albert War
Anzac Day Service
10am, Tuesday 25 April 2006
As we gather here today on Anzac Day 2006, we mark a day of special significance to New Zealand.
It is 91 years since New Zealand soldiers first reached the shores of Gallipoli on the morning of 25 April 1915. One in five of these men became casualties on the first day of fighting in what was to be a horrific test of courage, bravery and endurance.
These first 3000 men would be joined by over 5500 more in the long coming months. In all, 2721 would not return home to New Zealand from Gallipoli. Many of those who did return home bore scars as a result of their experiences, some easier to identify than others.
Characteristics which became central to how we identify ourselves as New Zealanders were forged during this conflict: mateship, unity, courage, self-sacrifice, loyalty and egalitarianism. These are values which continue to distinguish New Zealand’s service personnel and are held dear as part of our Anzac tradition.
Later today, thousands of New Zealanders both young and old will gather on the slopes of Chunuk Bair to honour the fallen of Gallipoli. Here in New Zealand, we also honour them, and communities far and wide remember those who did not return.
While memorial services are being held all around New Zealand today to honour those whose lives were sacrificed, they are also a tribute to the war veterans still with us.
Despite our small size on the international stage, New Zealand's service commitment has been huge. In the First World War, New Zealand sent more than 100,000 soldiers overseas. During the Second War, New Zealand made another massive contribution. Over 200,000 men and women served in our Armed Forces, and 135,000 of these were mobilised overseas.
Since then, our Service personnel have served in many international conflicts, emergencies, and peacekeeping operations. These include J-Force, Korea, Malaya and Borneo, Vietnam, Bosnia, the Gulf, East Timor, Bougainville, and Afghanistan. New Zealand continues to assist at points of danger and conflict around the world.
In honour of all New Zealanders who have served their country in times of conflict the New Zealand Government has designated 2006 as the ‘Year of the Veteran’.
The ‘Year of the Veteran’ will see activities and initiatives taking place nation-wide, providing the opportunity for all New Zealanders to recognise the courage and sacrifice of those who have served.
As a lasting expression of appreciation to those who have served New Zealand in times of war or emergency, we are presenting special ‘Year of the Veteran’ Certificates of Appreciation and Lapel Badges. Every veteran of a recognised war or emergency is eligible for this recognition of New Zealand’s enduring appreciation and gratitude for their service.
A key aim of the 'Year of the Veteran' is to provide opportunities to recognise veterans in our communities. The Year of the Veteran Community Grants Fund will assist local communities in realising their plans for projects and events to do that.
2006 also marks another important milestone, the 90th anniversary of the founding of the Royal New Zealand Returned Services Association. The RNZRSA is an organisation with a proud history of dedication to the welfare and commemoration of our servicemen and women, past and present.
In this context, it is important for us to remember that the impact of service can be considerable; not only for the veterans themselves, but for their spouses, their families, and their communities. On this Anzac Day, we recognise also the commitment of individuals and organisations who assist and support our veterans.
We are fortunate that many in our country have never known the horror of war. Those who set out to serve New Zealand in times of conflict were also perhaps unaware of the true nature of the challenges that lay ahead. However, their courage and determination in the face of these challenges remains an inspiration to all.
On the 25th of April every year, we honour the service and sacrifice of all our veterans, and we pledge that our fallen will never be forgotten. We will remember them.