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RSA Anzac of the Year awarded to young heroic cousins

RSA Anzac of the Year awarded to young heroic cousins

The Governor-General has presented the RSA’s prestigious Anzac of the Year Award to New Zealand’s youngest-ever recipients.

At a ceremony in Waihi Beach today, cousins Will White and Sergio Schuler, both aged 12, were honoured for their remarkable courage and selfless commitment in the rescue of 32-year-old Vincent Shao at Bowentown Beach in Waihi last December.

When Vincent Shao lost his footing and became caught in a rip, the boys’ used their surf lifesaving training, teamwork and sheer bravery to navigate the crisis, showing maturity beyond their years and ultimately risking their own safety to ensure Vincent’s survival.

Lt Gen The Rt Hon Sir Jerry Mateparae presented the award at the Waihi Beach Memorial RSA, with the boys’ family and friends, school representatives, members of the Waihi surf lifesaving club, Police and the local RSA present.

“Will and Sergio exemplify how the Anzac spirit, which was showcased nearly a century ago at Gallipoli, is still alive and strong in even our youngest New Zealanders,” Sir Jerry said.

“These boys embody the Anzac spirit of camaraderie, compassion, courage and commitment in looking after their mates.”

RSA National President Don McIver congratulated the boys, saying their ability to keep calm in a crisis was a critical factor in ensuring Vincent made it ashore alive.

“It’s inspiring to see such a display of compassion and courage in such young people. It is our great pleasure to honour Will and Sergio’s bravery with this Award. Their families and their community should be very proud of them,” said Don.

The Anzac of the Year Award was established in 2010 and last year was awarded to members of the Student Volunteer Army for their selfless and compassionate service to the city of Christchurch following the 2010 and 2011 earthquakes.

Previous recipients of the Award have been ex-military personnel Brigadier (Retd) Dr Brian McMahon in 2011 and the late Lt Col (Retd) John Masters ONZM MC JP in 2010.

Nominations for the award were made by the New Zealand public with the final recipients decided by a panel including:

• His Excellency Lieutenant General The Right Honourable Sir Jerry Mateparae GNZM QSO Governor-General of New Zealand (Chairman)
• Lieutenant General (Retd) Don McIver CMG OBE, RSA National President
• Lieutenant General Rhys Jones, Chief of Defence Force
• Sir Brian Lochore ONZ KNZM OBE

Official Citation

Citation for 2013 Anzac of the Year
Will White and Sergio Schuler

Following an act of remarkable courage and compassion, Will White and Sergio Schuler are the 2013 Anzacs of the Year.

On 29 December 2012, cousins Will and Sergio, both aged 12, were swimming at Bowentown Beach, Waihi, when 32 year-old Vincent Shao became caught in a rip after losing his footing in waist-high water.

Despite their age and size, the pair took immediate action.

Sergio rushed to shore to raise the alarm before heading back to help his cousin. The pair didn’t hesitate to battle 1.5 metre swells and a strong undertow to go to Vincent’s aid.

By the time the boys reached him, Vincent was in a distressed state, fighting the water and holding Will and Sergio to stay afloat. Using his surf lifesaver training, Will managed to calm the situation, and worked with Vincent to get him out of the rip.

At all times the two boys used their training, teamwork and sheer bravery to navigate the crisis, showing maturity beyond their years and ultimately risking their own safety to ensure Vincent’s survival.

Will and Sergio supported Vincent to the shore, where he collapsed unconscious. The pair continued to care for Vincent before handing over to an ambulance crew who transported Vincent to Tauranga hospital in a serious condition.

Both boys have been humble in accepting praise for the rescue, crediting their training and teamwork above heroism.

In this brave act, Will and Sergio embodied the Anzac spirit, demonstrating their innate compassion for a fellow New Zealander and commitment to leaving no one behind.

About the Anzac of the Year Award
Established in 2010 by the Royal New Zealand RSA, the Anzac of the Year Award recognises the spirit of Anzac evident in New Zealanders today. It is awarded for a single act or for significant service to New Zealanders or the international community.

The spirit of Anzac is embodied in the 1915 story of New Zealand Gallipoli hero Private Richard Henderson and the donkey where the qualities of comradeship, compassion, courage and commitment were exemplified in his service bringing in wounded men, under heavy fire with total disregard for his own life.

The aim of the Award is to recognise the efforts and achievements of an outstanding New Zealander, or New Zealanders, who have given service in a positive, selfless and compassionate manner.

The Award is a 700mm tall bronze statue depicting Henderson and his donkey at Gallipoli and includes the Maori motif signifying Tumatauenga, the God of War at its base. The RSA commissioned New Zealand Army artist Captain Matt Gauldie for the work.

ENDS

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