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Salute for the Army

July 2019

OPINION – Sir Ray Avery


Only about 0.1% of our population are full-time army personnel but this small percentage is responsible for supporting us here at home in times of crises, maintaining security throughout our region and supporting international peace keeping efforts.

I became very aware of this fact when last week I presented a keynote speech to the New Zealand Army Senior Enlisted Leaders Conference.

Some 230 senior leader army personnel from New Zealand, Australia, Canada, Fiji, Jordan, Norway, PNG, Singapore, South Korea, Tonga, and USA gathered at Stamford Plaza Hotel in full military dress uniform.

It was an impressive gathering with medals proudly on display and I was very taken by the calibre and authenticity of the men and women in that room that night.

They were proud of their work and their contribution to protecting our society and they celebrated with grace and dignity.

At the age of 72 in terms of life experiences, I have been there done that, yet this gathering of men and women of substance was moving and made me proud to be a New Zealander

There was trustworthiness in every handshake and hongi I received, - an authenticity and a substance and a commitment which is sometimes lacking in the boardrooms of New Zealand.

Often the only time the New Zealand army comes into prominence publically is because of isolated military incidences on the ground in foreign parts or concerns regarding capital expenditure to purchase equipment.

Yet they do so much more and contribute and help in times of difficulty and tragedy.

New Zealand’s military history is well documented and a few times a year New Zealanders commemorate pivotal historical moments when we recognise the sacrifices made by our military personnel.

War is hell and not to be celebrated, but the day to day sacrifices our military make, as part of their duty to protect and serve us, are worthy of recognition.

I have witnessed first-hand the bloodiness of war in places like Eritrea with dead bodies in the sand and the face of war written in the deformed faces of children and missing limbs of their fathers and mothers.

Our soldiers often spend months or years separated from their families when they are deployed internationally. They have a ‘use by date’of fifty five when they then have to reinvent themselves and move onto another vocation

Some of the frontline men I spoke to apologised for being partially deaf in one ear an occupational health hazard that goes with prolonged automatic weapon usage.

There is also of course the possibility that someone may try to kill them with an assortment of ever increasing sophisticated weapons.

So please, the next time you see a New Zealand Army soldier queuing for a cup of coffee buy them that coffee to thank them because it is not a job for the faint hearted and they give up so much of themselves to make sure we can go about our lives in peace and safety.

I am certainly going to take every opportunity to salute them.

Sir Ray Avery

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