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ANZAC Day Remarks by President Anthony Wilson

25 April 2016

The following is a transcript of remarks given by Anthony Wilson, president of the Auckland New Zealand Mt Roskill Stake of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, at an Anzac Day commemoration service at the Church's Pah Road, Royal Oak meetinghouse on 25 April 2016.

Wiremu Maraki was a labourer from Ruatoria near Gisborne. He enlisted with the 28th Maori Battalion in Wellington and fought in many of the major campaigns during the Second World War.

Wi Maraki returned home at War end, married and had many children. Two were adopted out to his sisters who were unable to have children of their own.

One of the children adopted was my wife. Wi Maraki was like many Maori who enlisted at that time.  He did it out of a sense of duty and adventure.

Many followed the call of Sir Apirana Ngata for Maori to form their own fighting unit. He said their service in the unit was their “price of citizenship”.

Ngata said, “In the Treaty of Waitangi, Article Three imparted the rights of British citizenship to Maori. In accepting those rights, Maori agreed that the Treaty imposed on them certain obligations and duties.

“As British subjects Maori should serve in the defence of the Empire. British sovereignty was accepted by our forefathers and it has given the Maori people rights which they would not have been accorded under any conqueror.

“We are participants in a great Commonwealth, to the defence of which we cannot hesitate to contribute our blood and our lives. We are the possessors of rights which we must qualify to exercise, also of obligations which the Maori must discharge always in the future as he has done in the past.

“Moreover, if Maori were to have a say in shaping the future of the nation after the war they needed to participate fully during it.”

Ngata summed the situation up, “We are of one house, and if our Pakeha brothers fall, we fall with them. How can we ever hold up our heads, when the struggle is over, to the question, ‘Where were you when New Zealand was at war?’”

The 28th Maori battalion was formed at the outbreak of War in 1939 and continued until 1945. Almost 3600 men served overseas with the Māori Battalion between 1940 and 1945.

Of these, 649 were killed in action or died on active service – more than 10% of the 6068 New Zealanders who lost their lives serving with 2NZEF in the Middle East and Europe. In addition, 1712 Maori men were wounded and 237 were prisoners of war.

In the words of Lieutenant-General Bernard Freyberg, who commanded the 2nd NZ Division, “no infantry battalion had a more distinguished record, or saw more fighting, or, alas, had such heavy casualties as the Maori Battalion.”

Many Māori also served with other units in the 2nd NZ Division, with the 3rd NZ Division in the Pacific, in New Zealand-based army units and in the Home Guard. Others served with the Air Force, Navy and Merchant Navy. Some Māori women served in the Army Nursing Service and the women's army, air force and navy auxiliaries. Between 1939 and 1945 almost 16,000 Māori volunteered for war service, out of a total population of fewer than 100,000.

On my Father’s side of the family we have 3 grand uncles who also served in the Maori Battalion. Now, as their ancestors, we look back in awe of the sacrifice that they made in service to their country.

Today we stand together as families, as a community, church and country to commemorate and recognise our veterans, those who have served our country in the battlefield and to say we thank you for the service that you have rendered.

We are grateful that we stand as a free people, enabling us freedom of religious expression, civil rights of the individual and political freedoms.

ANZAC Day is a special day for us New Zealanders as we stand hand in hand, shoulder to shoulder, as did our ancestors.

From those early beginnings they would forge a nation through sacrifice, and service – from the shores of the Gallipoli Peninsula of modern day Turkey, now known as ANZAC cove, and also on the battlefields of Europe.

It was at Flanders field that Lt Col John McRae of the Canadian Expeditionary Force penned that often quoted poem after the death of a close friend.

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

It is my encouragement to the youth of the church, and our wider community, that you will search and find out for yourself your own family’s history. The extent of the sacrifice, bravery, courage, valour and sense of duty that those of your ancestors who have gone before you have shown. The understanding that you will gain will make you feel truly humble and deeply grateful.

One of the leaders of our church, Dieter Uchtdorf, speaking of service and the need to work together told this story.

“Some years ago in our meetinghouse in …Germany, a group of brethren was asked to move a grand piano from the chapel to the adjoining cultural hall, where it was needed for a musical event. None were professional movers, and the task of getting that gravity-friendly instrument through the chapel and into the cultural hall seemed nearly impossible.

“Everybody knew that this task required not only physical strength but also careful coordination. There were plenty of ideas, but not one could keep the piano balanced correctly. They repositioned the brethren by strength, height, and age over and over again—nothing worked.

“As they stood around the piano, uncertain of what to do next, a good friend of mine spoke up and said, ‘Brethren, stand close together and lift where you stand.’

“It seemed too simple. Nevertheless, each lifted where he stood, and the piano rose from the ground and moved into the cultural hall as if on its own power. That was the answer to the challenge. They merely needed to stand close together and lift where they stood.”

“I have often thought of this simple idea expressed by President Uchtdorf and have been impressed by its profound truth. Where each of us, -- whether we be in a church or community – if we work together and serve we can achieve greater outcomes. We just need to ‘lift where you stand.’”

Another church leader Dallin H Oaks has said,

“We live in a time when sacrifice is definitely out of fashion, when the outside forces that taught our ancestors the need for unselfish cooperative service have diminished. Someone has called this the ‘me’ generation—a selfish time when everyone seems to be asking, what’s in it for me? Even some who should know better seem to be straining to win the praise of those who mock and scoff …

“The worldly aspiration of our day is to get something for nothing. The ancient evil of greed shows its face in the assertion of entitlement: I am entitled to this or that because of who I am—a son or a daughter, a citizen, a victim, or a member of some other group. Entitlement is generally selfish. It demands much, and it gives little or nothing. Its very concept causes us to seek to elevate ourselves above those around us.

“Today we remember not ourselves but those that have sacrificed much in the pursuit of a greater happiness for those whom they loved and a country that they loved. For some it would be the ultimate sacrifice it is Jesus Christ who said in John 15:13, 'Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.'

As during and after the Great War when all the small communities of NZ rallied to support those who had lost their lives, I encourage our youth to remember your forebears. Stand on the shoulders of your ancestors and lift yourselves for a greater sense of service and duty to your community. “Lift where you stand”.

As we stand here today, and many of us will grow old and the years will fall before us, but as the sunsets that will follow and as the morning sun arises may we never forget, and remember them.

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