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Speech

Vietnam Entertainers Medal Ceremony

Issue date: 
Wednesday, 20 July 2016
Speaker: 
Lt Gen The Rt Hon Sir Jerry Mateparae, GNZM, QSO

E nga mana, e nga reo, e nga iwi o nga hau e whā, tēnei aku mihi māhana ki a koutou.  Te manuhiri tuarangi naumai haere mai.  Kia ora tātou katoa, naumai haere mai ki te Whare Kawana ki Tamaki Makaurau.  Distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen, I extend a warm greeting to you all.  I offer a special welcome to those visitors who have travelled long distances to be here – but welcome one and all to Government House.  

 I specifically acknowledge Lieutenant General Tim Keating, Chief of the Defence Force; John Deazley, National President New Zealand Vietnam Veterans Association; and Pat Johnston, Auckland District President, Returned and Services Association - tēnā koutou katoa.  

It is a great pleasure to welcome you all to Government House for this medal ceremony.  Service to one’s country takes many forms.  Earlier this year, we held a ceremony at Government House in Wellington to recognise a group of officers for their contribution during military service on operations.  Today, we are recognising a group of civilians, who provided valuable support to the military in a theatre of war. 

The presentation of the New Zealand General Service Medal and the New Zealand Operational Service Medal acknowledges service in an operational theatre of war.  Today’s ceremony recognises the morale boosting contribution of New Zealand entertainers during the Vietnam War. It’s a special day for the recipients, and also for those who have worked hard to ensure they received official recognition.  

Recognition of the service of these New Zealanders is long overdue.  I hope the recipients, their families and, or their representatives feel proud of the contribution they made – the service they gave. 

Ladies and gentlemen, after each recipient has received their medals, I invite you to join me in thanking and congratulating them for their service to our country.  Mr Jack Hayes will now summon the recipients, and give a brief overview of each person’s contribution.Conclusion

Ladies and gentlemen, distinguished guests; it has been my privilege today to celebrate the service of a special group of New Zealanders, who rendered valuable service to the military and our country.

The New Zealand showbands and singers who travelled to Vietnam followed in the footsteps of other groups like the Kiwi Concert Party, who entertained the troops in the Second World War.  Unlike their predecessors, who were combat trained and fought in battles like the Battle of Crete , the entertainers who went to Vietnam were armed solely with musical talent, musical appeal and musical instruments. 

The entertainers were treated with great respect and a certain amount of privilege.  However, conditions were not easy – they never are in a war zone.  Recipient Mahora Peters recounts in her book ‘Showband’ of travelling in a vehicle column that came under mortar attack and being bundled into a drain by the US Sergeant escorting her.  Others performed in places a little too close to the front-line action for comfort.  Each of you who went to Vietnam will have your memories or have heard the stories of travelling and performing for the troops.  Certainly performing in officers and soldiers clubs and at firebases would have been a far cry from the clubs and gigs of New Zealand, Australia and further afield.

One thing that would have been familiar was the enjoyment of the audiences you played to.  Jack Hayes who saw the Te Kiwis (Maori HyMarques Show Band play at the Hotel Caravelle) in Saigon remembers: “It was amazing.  It was like being at home again” .  And it was that sense of “reach back to home and getting some respite from the war” that was part of the experience.  It must be noted that your audiences included more than just homesick New Zealanders and Australians.  American, Thai and Korean personnel also got a taste of Kiwi entertainment.  

New Zealand’s musical scene then and now is a close-knit one.  This occasion possibly also serves as a reunion of sorts.

On a more personal note – I am delighted to see my brother Sam recognised, and to present Sam’s medals to his son David.  David was three when Sam went to Vietnam in 1969.  Growing up with Sam as my older brother, I saw how his life as a professional musician often involved a lot of time away from his family.  I also learned it involved some pretty unique experiences.  

To the recipients – this is an official recognition of your service and your professionalism.  As the Governor-General, I am pleased to acknowledge that service on behalf of all New Zealanders. 

If distance was the lot of the touring entertainer, then taking on contracts in Vietnam added danger to the mix.  Your decision to travel and perform in Vietnam shows an admirable commitment to your industry and to your audiences.  It was in the very best tradition of “the show must go on”.  

In the context of this medals presentation ceremony and the viewpoint of the service personnel we sent to Vietnam and the civilians, including our entertainers who are being recognised today, this Maori whakatauki is appropriate: "Mau tena kiwai o te kete, maku tēnei" which literally translates as "You at that handle, and me at this handle of the basket".  

Congratulations once again to all today’s recipients, those who are with us and those who cannot be here.  

Kia ora huihui tātou katoa.  

Last updated: 
Wednesday, 20 July 2016

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