ANZAC Tribute

This is my ANZAC Day tribute posting. ANZAC Day means a great deal for me and my family. I suppose it is because we have a connection to the original ANZACS in 1915 and Gallipoli and to a veteran of a war much fresher in our minds, Viet Nam.

Firstly I pay tribute to my Great Grand-father Harry Crozier. I never really knew him, he died many years ago. Harry served in the Gallipoli campaign and thankfully came home alive albeit with one leg. I know he spent considerable time in Rotorua convalescing and learnt to carve maori carvings as part of his rehabilitation.

The second person I pay tribute to is a guy who truly epitomises the ANZAC spirit. He is an Aussie, living in New Zealand who fought for new Zealand in Viet Nam. He is married to a Kiwi and has three Kiwi kids, and three Kiwi grand kids. He is also my Father-in-law.

 41873 Gnr Atkins KG 161 Bty was in Viet Nam in 1966. Based in Nui Dat and one of the first to arrive and establish the Base and gun positions. “Oz” participated in the famous Battle of Long Tan where the Kiwi guns were instrumental in saving 3 platoons of D Company of the 6th Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment (6RAR) and enabling the thrashing of a Regiment of Viet Cong.

Each gun fired over 1200 rounds that day and night in support of the Aussies. The battle was fought in a rubber tree plantation near the village of Long Tan, about 40 km north-east of Vung Tau, South Vietnam on August 18-19, 1966. The battle was fought all afternoon and most of the night in pouring monsoon rain. The guns ran so hot that wet blankets were draped over them in an attempt to keep the barrels cool.

Kevin tells many stories of his time in Viet Nam but they are not at all “warry” to use his term. They speak a simple truth that war is tough and brutal. He often says he hopes his children never have to go to war and thankfully they probably won’t have to.

It seems so long ago, yet for some only yesterday. The Government to this day still treats veterans with disdain with their handling, and obfuscation of the Agent Orange scandal. I say a scandal because that is what it is. You need only ask any veteran about Agent Orange and they will tell you they weren’t just sprayed with they were doused in it, they drank water soaked with it and were often wet to their socks with Agent Orange. Check out this photo of Nui Dat in 1966 . Every country in Viet Nam at the time has acknowledged it happened and compensated their veterans and New Zealand continues to deny it occurred and continues to hold spurious enquiries.

Kevin didn’t want me to write anything about him but I insisted. He didn’t want me to make him out to be a hero. In his words he was there, he was a gunner and that was all. Like most veterans he is intensely proud of his achievements and at the same time intensely bitter at the way they were treated upon returning. It is high time that Kiwis were proud of what our guys did in Viet Nam, proud of their achievements and proud of their fortitude to fight. I admire anyone who has the gumption to stand up and be counted with their own life.

My Father-in-Law is a true ANZAC, someone I am proud to know and love. I admire his achievemen
ts. I fondly remember the ANZAC Day we spent in Sydney 6 years ago. Australians celebrate ANZAC Day, Kiwis commemorate it. In Sydney on that day Kevin was proud to wear his medals and comfortable wearing them in the street. Sydney was one big party that day and we ate and drank pretty much for free where ever we went. Kids and adults alike patted him on the back and shook his hand and called out “good on ya mate”. The pity is that the same cannot be said of New Zealand. ANZAC Day is treated as a solemn occasion. People do show their respects and continue to show it by the increased attendances at parades all over the country, but is “respects” as in at a funeral rather than respect as in admiration.

It is high time New Zealand “celebrated” the achievements of our soldiers and stopped “commemorating” them. ANZAC Day should be like it was in Sydney 6 years ago. It is certainly a day I will not forget.

A couple of things remain for me to pass onto my children. They are visits to Gallipoli and to Viet Nam to show the kids where our relatives fought and shed blood so that they may never know war. Hopefully they will never know war as other generation have.

Lest we forget.

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