ANZAC ideals evident today

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The News chief reporter Steve Addison reflects on the important role our soldiers and service personnel play in trying to make life safer for others.

In late 2015 I met a 12-year-old girl in a field hospital just inside Turkey, near the Syrian border. The girl’s name was Fatima and she had just two weeks earlier been shot through the neck by a sniper, leaving her a quadriplegic.

Her father had been shot and killed in front of her and her mother and grandmother shot, but had survived.

What struck me about this tragedy was that Fatima had been deliberately and callously targeted.

Fatima was not “collateral damage” in a rocket or artillery attack. A person has coldly aimed a rifle at her from a distance and made a decision to try to take her precious life.

As New Zealanders we can be proud of the limited but important role that our defence force plays overseas.

I take from my father a strong belief that it is the duty of the strong to protect those who are in a weaker position, and we see that ideal in those who serve with the New Zealand Defence Force today.

On Anzac Day we look back to the conflicts of last century but there is also growing awareness of the sacrifice made by our military in places such as East Timor, Afghanistan and now Iraq.

New Zealanders have a reputation for fairness and professionalism and our defence force works hard to try to make the world a little safer.

Travelling to refugee camps dotted along Syria’s borders, I am proud to tell people I am a New Zealander. Most really have little idea where New Zealand is but all seem to recognise it as a peaceful, non-threatening country and I am greeted with handshakes and hugs.

At the Anzac Day parade in Patearoa this week there were many children, some the same age as Fatima. To me the moving service was a reminder of the important role our soldiers and service personnel play in trying to make life just a little safer for children like Fatima who live in a far more dangerous world.