Keeping the memories alive
By Roger Childs
Back in 2012 on the 70th anniversary of the Marines arriving in Paekakariki, the Kapiti US Marines Trust (KUSMT) decided to have major commemorations spread over 10 days.
This was a great success and the tradition has continued, with the following events held towards the end of May every year:
~ In the Footsteps of the Marines: a walk/run based on a route march described by Leon Uris
~ A Memorial Day Service in Queen Elizabeth Park.
This year was the 75th anniversary and a special feature of the ceremony was the opening of a restored Marines Hut.
A day to remember
Memorial Day dawned fine and mild. Over 150 people were present at the Marines Memorial to honour Americans who died in the service of their country, and the more than 15,000 Marines who lived in the three camps north of Paekakariki in 1942-43.
In keeping with the importance of the occasion, the service included contributions from people of all ages:
- A reading from Joan Ellis who lived in Paekakariki in the early 1940s
- Lieutenant Colonel Dean Ladd, quoting from Leon Uris’s account of the arrival of the Marines in Wellington in 1942
- Paekakariki School children performing a haka waiata
- the laying of several wreaths, including one by the memorial for the sailors who drowned off
- senior students from the three local colleges telling the poignant story of the June 10 1943 landing craft tragedy which took the lives of 10 sailors
- Marines and New Zealand service personnel lowering and raising the flags of the two nations
- speeches by KUSMT Chairperson, Jenny Rowan and United States Chargé d’Affaires, Candy Green.
The Rev Lyall Perris conducted the service which included a rich mix of music.
This featured the playing of “Taps” as the flags were lowered then raised, a waiata from Paekakariki School students and passionate renditions of The Star-Spangled Banner and God of Nations by Kapiti College singers.
A fitting climax
Following the formal service the restored Marines Hut was officially opened.
Various groups were acknowledged and a number of speakers told the story of how the original camps were build by Fletcher Construction and how the hut, now on site, was crafted by the MenzShed in Waikanae Beach.
All who attended enjoyed the service, in which more than 150 people contributed to a rich and colourful mix of formality and friendship, music and memories, commemoration and dedication.