Thousands of people gathered at Anzac Day services around the district to remember and honour those who died, returned from battle or are in armed service carrying out duties for New Zealand.
Ashburton RSA president Merv Brenton said it was a time “to celebrate and give thanks, to remember the lives and sacrifices they gave to create the freedoms we all experience today.”
In his Anzac Day address in Ashburton Mr Brenton said before dawn on 25th April 1915, the soldiers of the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps landed on the shores of the Gallipoli peninsula.
“What lay ahead of them was inconceivable, the battle raged for eight months and forged a bond between the two countries that remains today, and the reason both national anthems were sung.
“The camaraderie forged in battle maybe a reason for the fiercely contested trans-Tasman rivalry in sporting events.”
He said 106 years ago the Returned Services Association was established with the aim of taking care of New Zealand veterans and their families as our soldiers returned from Gallipoli in 1916. The casualties from that battle were overwhelming with 2800 New Zealanders and 8700 Australians killed.
“While today’s soldiers face different challenges, our support to them and their families continues,” he said.
Seventy percent of support claims today were for under 45 year olds, and mainly dealing with mental heath issues. It was “an ever changing world we live in.”
“Today we recognise all New Zealand service men and women who have lost their lives in military operations carried out in our country’s name.
“We honour those who returned changed by what they had experienced, we honour those who are serving today in our army, navy and air force and thank them for their service.”
Mr Brenton said across New Zealand there were around 140,000 living veterans, ranging in age from early 20’s to over 100 years of age.
He encouraged people to learn their stories – “the stories of courage and sacrifice of our surviving World War Two veterans and those who fought in Korea, Malaya and Vietnam, but also the stories of our younger veterans, those who have served in Afghanistan, Iraq, East Timor and around the Pacific.
“All have done what was asked of them by their country and have served us proudly.”
“We especially remember those named on the cenotaph … those in unknown graves overseas, those that are in cemeteries here in Ashburton and all around New Zealand, those still in current service and to all those veterans still daily living with the memories of war.
“I personally have family war memories of uncles killed in action and you will too, whether it be, family members, friends or neighbours with stories and memories, we all join here today as one united to a common cause because of them, we can, and to give a very big thank you.”
Anzac Day thanks:
To those that attended either of our two cenotaph services in Ashburton, any of the outlying events or even stood at dawn, a huge thank you for making the day so memorable, by your participation in a day four weeks prior wasn’t happening.
It makes all the planning all the more worthwhile and to see the crowds arriving of all ages from toddlers through to veterans very satisfying and shows that those we commemorated and gave and sacrificed so much will never be forgotten.
We will never forget them.
Thank you all,
Merv Brenton, RSA President