Zoe Learmonth (15), of Wanaka, was “shoulder-tapped” by her mother’s work colleague to speak at both of the Wanaka and Tarras Anzac Day services on Monday.
Zoe, a year 11 pupil at Mount Aspiring College, said she had not done any public speaking before but enjoyed the experience in front of crowds of about 200.
“It wasn’t too bad. I wasn’t that nervous. I was shoulder-tapped because [Wanaka RSA member Ralph Fegan] knows me quite well and I just said ‘yes’,” she said.
Mr Fegan and Zoe’s mother Jo Learmonth both work at Wanaka Airport.
Mr Fegan discovered Zoe was interested in reading about war history, and introduced her to Wanaka resident Frances Copland, who he knew had some stories about her father’s World War 2 experiences serving with the 27th Battalion in Italy.
Zoe said Mrs Copland’s father, Colin Campbell, of Timaru, was a machine gunner and involved in the historic battle for the hilltop abbey at Monte Cassino, which the Allied forces won but with a huge loss of lives.
One of her own ancestors, Jack Pringle, of Balclutha, was wounded in the same conflict but died in a later battle.
Zoe said she enjoyed talking with Mrs Copland and the information they shared about the impact of war on the futures of returned servicemen and women had made her feel quite sad.
“It was really interesting. I did that [interview] about two weeks ago. I felt very sorry for her because apparently her dad was never the same again,” Zoe said.
The conversation had also helped shape her own thoughts of the war in Ukraine.
“I think it is really sad that in this day and age, it is still happening. I thought maybe we could’ve learned from our experiences. But I think war is interesting and I like reading about it,” she said.