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Volunteers Continue Restoring NZ’s Military Heritage In Tight Times

Despite difficult financial times, the volunteers of the New Zealand Remembrance Army (NZRA) are still out in their communities – often at their own cost – restoring the final resting places of service people.

Since 2018, the NZRA been restoring and telling the story of New Zealand service people and our military heritage.

“We have restored over 180,000 graves across 250 cemeteries and are also supporting grave restoration in the Cook Islands and Australia," says Simon Strombom, NZRA Managing Director.

“But all this is not without cost. Like many other charities in difficult times, the NZRA has to slow down on a major contribution to our history of finding and placing headstones on the graves of unmarked kiwi soldiers across New Zealand.”

To date, the NZRA has placed over 90 headstones on the unmarked graves of service people at a rough cost of $1500 each. The most recent being Sergeant Major, John Marwick, a Gallipoli veteran of Chunuk Bair.

“We receive great support from Veterans Affairs New Zealand, yet increasingly their hands are financially tied, and the NZRA is bearing the full cost of headstone replacement.”

“As a charity it is very hard to get funding, we run the NZRA off the smell off the smell of an oily rag. Despite all our generous public donations going into grave restorations, we have seen a fifty percent reduction this year.”

“As a result, we’ve had to make the difficult decision to put aside the expensive cost of headstones for now, because practically we can do a entire cemetery restoration for the cost of one or two headstones.”

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However, the mainstay of the NZRA’s work, grave restorations will continue.

“In the lead up to ANZAC day this weekend, the NZRA has working bees all over the country with help from, school kids, families, NZDF Cadet Forces, and volunteers to do maintenance on thousands of graves.”

“We have a real focus on youth and telling them the stories of people who shaped their communities and country.”

“It is these kids who are our ANZAC guardians of the future and it is so important they know our shared history. We also have strong support from younger veterans and their families.”

“New Zealand has a very rich tapestry of stories from veterans who took part in major world historical events, including the charge of the Light Brigade in the Crimean War, French Resistance Fighters to being at Gettysburg in the American Civil War.”

“Most New Zealanders are unaware of this amazing stories that lie in their local cemeteries – and ultimately that’s what we are preserving here,” said Simon.

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