Emotional day as remains of NZ service people return home

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Minister for Veterans Ron Mark say they were honoured to be with the families of service personnel as they welcomed their loved ones home.

“I know it is a hugely emotional time for the families of these 27 Service personnel and one infant whose remains have been repatriated from Malaysia and Singapore,” Jacinda Ardern said.

“Those repatriated today gave their lives serving for our nation, but due to a policy applied in an inconsistent and unfair way over many decades, were not returned home.

“The Government has committed to righting this wrong and it is vitally important to the families that we do.

“Most of those returned today were young men in their 20s when they died. Nine were killed in action during the Malayan Emergency or the Vietnam War.

“The other New Zealanders who have come home today lost their lives in accidents or through illness, and include Desmond Rogers, the infant son of a service person who was just three and a half months old.

“The loss and grief of their loved ones was the same, no matter what the cause of their passing. Today we acknowledge their sacrifice and service.

“The families now have their loved ones home and can prepare them to be truly laid to rest,” Jacinda Ardern said.

“Prior to 1955 it was Government policy to inter our fallen personnel overseas.  This changed, and between 1955 and 1971 personnel could be bought home at the cost of their family,” Ron Mark said.

“Many families could not afford to bring their loved ones home and this caused pain and heartache, their families have lived with ever since.

“In 1971 the Government began picking up the bill.  But, it was not back dated to 1955 when the policy change occurred.

“I’m proud to be part of a Government that is committed to righting this wrong.  I’m also especially proud of the team who have worked so hard to make this day happen.  Their work has been outstanding,” Ron Mark said.