WelCom April 2019:
Fr Brian Fennessy
The first Anzac Day was observed in 1916, one year after the Landings at Gallipoli, during WWI. New Zealand society wanted to remember and honour her sons who had fought and died at Gallipoli. April 1916 was an interim period between the Evacuation from Gallipoli and the arrival of the New Zealand Division on the Western Front.
Anzac Day is also New Zealand’s pledge to uphold national and international justice, values and rights.
The response of New Zealanders to the tragedy of the Christchurch shootings is a similar pledge to overcome hate and evil. However, the wounds of 15 March 2019 will take time to heal.
The outpouring of compassion, support and unity in Christchurch, as well as our on-going peacekeeping role in various areas of the world, are also tributes to the spirit of Anzac Day.
Every year Anzac Day, 25 April, is a day to remember New Zealanders who served during times of conflict; we remember those who died; but we also need to remember those, who in one way or another, were injured on Operations.
Last year, the RSA ‘Poppy Day’ had the theme: ‘Not all wounds bleed’, highlighting mental-health injuries. Last year’s Invictus Games, under the patronage of Prince Harry, once again highlighted the determination, but also the reality, of injured Returned Military Personnel. And last month, Willie Apiata VC launched ‘Post Transition’ to assist military personnel when they leave the NZDF.
The theme for Poppy Appeal this year is:
He whānau kotaki tātou
We are all family.
The 2019 theme recognises that many veterans and their families can endure ongoing hardship when soldiers return from Operations.
As an Army Chaplain, on exchange to the UK several years ago, I was fortunate to accompany the British Military Pilgrimage to Lourdes. Along with 600 Brits, I joined the International Pilgrimage. Among the contingent were several British soldiers who had recently been wounded in Iraq or Afghanistan. Many were still suffering from their wounds; and for some, it would be a life-long condition.
One hundred and one years ago, WW1 Chaplain Patrick Dore MC MID assumed an unofficial advocacy role for returned soldiers; he possessed an understanding and insight that was ahead of the times. On 26 April 1918 the Manawatu Times reported:
‘At the returned soldiers’ concert at the Empire Hall in Palmerston North on Thursday night, Private Kennedy, of the Awapuni Camp, threw a new light on the problem of the absorption of returned soldiers into civil life. The opinions he gave, he said, were those of Father Dore, who had been operated on and could not unfortunately attend the celebrations. Father Dore had said that the returned soldiers should be trained to re-enter civil life. He had been taken from civil life and trained to forget it. He must walk like a soldier. He was perhaps under this regime for three years. He came back here with his nerves shattered and with military routine ground into his soul. He was expected to at once get into a job and assume his pre-war work. It could not be done. Perhaps the secretary of the Patriotic Society found him one job or six jobs, and he could not retain them. He should not be abandoned, but the process must be continued until he adapted himself to conditions that suited him. War does not make wasters. It makes men. It’s the people here in New Zealand who make the wasters. Train them back says Father Dore.’
Fr Dore’s reflection is remarkable. He was a chaplain who understood the complexity of returned soldiers’ lives and he possessed deep compassion for these men.
Fr Dore had been the Parish Priest of Foxton before he joined the Auckland Mounted Rifles, as chaplain, in 1914.
He was seriously wounded at Gallipoli and died, as a result of complications, in Auckland on 15 July 1918. Last year a Memorial Mass was celebrated in Foxton to remember the 100th anniversary of his death.
Veterans are within our communities; we need to remember them. The recent themes for ‘Poppy Day’, the efforts of Willie Apiata, and the witness of the Invictus Games are all contemporary ways of living the concern and compassion expressed by Chaplain Patrick Dore 101 years ago.
As Christians, we are also conscious that Anzac Day falls within the Easter Season – the Season to celebrate God’s pledge that we are his people and that evil and death have been overcome.
Lest we forget.
Brian Fennessy ED RNZChD is a Catholic Chaplain in the Army Reserve and Parish Priest of Holy Family Parish, Timaru.
Post Transition – a new battle
*Nearly seven years after leaving the New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF), Victoria Cross recipient Willie Apiata is now fighting for the welfare and futures of the men and women who leave the services who, he says, currently get nothing. Apiata and partner Jen Martin have created Post Transition as an organisation to fill the void so many of our servicemen and women feel when they leave the NZDF. Among the things Apiata is fighting for now is better welfare and care for former NZDF personnel, particularly around the treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Post Transition was launched at the Auckland War Memorial Thursday 7 March 2019.