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A speech on behalf of the nation

A speech on behalf of the nation

11 Aug 2012

Kia ora huihui tātou katoa i tēnei ra pouri. Greetings to all of us who are gathered on this sad day.

I specifically acknowledge: the family and friends of Lance Corporal Pralli Durrer and the family and friends of Lance Corporal Rory Malone; the Hon Bill English, Acting Prime Minister; the Hon Dr Jonathan Coleman, Minister of Defence; Mr David Shearer, Leader of Opposition; Lt Gen Rhys Jones, Chief of the Defence Force; Service Chiefs; Mr John McKinnon, Secretary of Defence; Commissioner Peter Marshall, Commissioner of the New Zealand Police; and members of the Diplomatic Corps – tēnā koutou katoa.

It is with a heavy heart that, together with my wife Janine, I attend, today, this commemorative service for A1016393 Lance Corporal Pralli Durrer and K1013159 Lance Corporal Rory Patrick Malone. As Governor-General, I stand before you as the representative of all New Zealanders who share in the immense grief that comes with losing two of our own.

As Commander-in-Chief, I stand before you to acknowledge the sacrifice that these two brave soldiers made in the name of peace, and in the name of New Zealand.

As a former soldier, I stand before you with an inkling of the anguish and grief that comes from losing mates-in-arms and how profoundly it affects the family, friends and colleagues of those whom we mourn today.

I want to now specifically address those here whose grief is unimaginable at this time: Jack Durrer, Pralli’s grandfather, Dina Durrer, Pralli’s Aunt and the wider Durrer family; Lance Corporal Kate Johnston, Rory’s partner, Helen Thomasen, Rory’s mother, and the wider Malone family.

Having a loved one deployed overseas, to a war-torn country where safety can never be guaranteed, is a situation few find themselves in. I understand the worry and the unease that comes with that. However, to have your greatest fear realised is something that even fewer are confronted with. Yet there are other families who have walked and are still walking your path. I acknowledge also the families and loved-ones of the five other soldiers who have died in the service of our country, in Afghanistan.

To each of the family members, I thank you personally for the part you had in shaping the lives of these brave young men. Pralli and Rory were men that you can be immensely proud of. During their all too short time in this world, they accomplished many things, including representing our country, New Zealand, on operational duty with great courage, commitment, comradeship and integrity. The wider New Zealand family grieve with you as you come to terms with your great loss.

When soldiers, sailors and airmen and women are deployed overseas, their thoughts are often of loved-ones at home. I want to quote the words of a good soldier and outstanding leader, Lieutenant-Colonel William Malone, Lance Corporal Rory Malone’s great, great grandfather. In one of his last letters to his wife Ida, Malone, the commanding officer of the Wellington Battalion of the New Zealand Expeditionary Force at Gallipoli, wrote:

“My desire for life, so that I may see and be with you again, could not be greater, but I have done what every man was bound to do in our country’s need. It has been a great consolation to me that you approved my action. The sacrifice was really yours. May you be consoled and rewarded by our dear Lord.”

Family is so important. For those who remain, including the Army and wider Defence Force family, the tragic loss of these two young soldiers is a reminder to us all of how precious and equally fragile life is. Cherish your loved ones every moment. Never take their presence in your life for granted. For we can never be sure of how long we each have, and how quickly a life can be lost.

And in looking for some sense out of this tragedy and the way ahead, there is a Maori whakatauki or proverb that goes: “Ahakoa whati te manga, e takoto ana ano te kohiri” – the meaning of which is that: Adversity will not ruin the group if its foundations are strong. I acknowledge the six wounded men who are yet to return to New Zealand. On behalf of all New Zealanders, I thank the Servicemen and women of our Defence Force for their loyal and dedicated service to our country as we remember your colleagues.

To the late Lance Corporal Pralli Durrer and to the late Lance Corporal Rory Malone; on behalf of all New Zealanders, I extend deep and heartfelt appreciation for your loyal and honourable service to our country. You both stood for peace, in a country so afflicted by war. You both gave of your lives to protect your mates and to ensure that that place had a better security and a better peace. And you now both rest, having made us very proud.

Lance Corporal Durrer and Lance Corporal Malone; there is sadness and honour in remembering you and your sacrifice to our nation. Be at peace, and know that while we grieve for your passing, we also celebrate you as two of New Zealand’s soldiers whose names will not be forgotten.

I close in commending the deceased to rest with the deceased, and for us, the living, to be active in the domain of the living. Na reira, ka apiti hono tatai hono te hunga mate ki te hunga mate, te hunga ora ki te hunga ora.

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