Last respects paid to slain NZ soldier


Lieutenant Tim O’Donnell who was killed in Afghanistan is taken from the funeral service to an awaiting gun carriage, Linton Military Base in Palmerston North. Photo / NZPA

It’s never good when a serviceman falls, on operations or in training and this has already been a sad year for the NZDF, following the CT-4 crash in January and the UH-1 on ANZAC Day…as Chief of Army Rhys Jones said, while the death in action of a soldier was not inevitiable it is certainly something that Kiwis have been steeling themselves for over the past 3-4 years…

I attended a presentation at Massey University just after the funeral…it was by former Chief of General Staff Piers Read, a contrast and compare look at the Reconstruction on post-Civil War America and modern Afghanistan (modern Afghanistan – now there’s an oxymoron!!)…he opened with an apology that this work had been in preparation and scheduled for this day for some months and he’d had no intention of ever presenting anything that might become so topical on such a day…it’s a good presentation and I’m going to ask if I can share the slides and supporting paper here…he made some good points, poignant and all the more effective against the background of the events in Linton that same afternoon…

…while at the same time, clowns Willie and JT of Radio Live was playing up the entertainment value of the funeral on Radio Live with Auckland’s University professor Caroline Daley suggesting about the funeral that the whole thing was really just a bit over the top and New Zealand just needs to get over it…all this hoop-la over one soldiers wasn’t something we did before for WW1, WW2, nor even Korea or Vietnam, those latter wars far smaller and perhaps more personal in their selectivity. If anyone needs to get over themselves, I think it may be Ms Daley whose timing in making those statements as the funeral was just ending was way off…

Perhaps Ms Daley needs to consider that, if we could, we would recognise EVERY soldier, sailor and airperson who fell in the service of their country in exactly that same way we did for Tim O’Donnell yesterday…that circumstances did not allow this at those times does not mean for one second that their sacrifice is any less nor the impact on their families any less painful and tragic…

I was privileged to spend some time with members of Lt O’Donnell’s unit as they waited for a C-130 to take them back down to Burnham Military Camp after they farewelled their mate that afternoon…something one of them said was so right…Tim was in the right place – he was in the lead vehicle, leading his soldiers, he was where he was meant to be, and doing his job

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And on this day, let’s not forget six other young men who died tragically while serving…twenty years ago today, Privates Brett Barker, Stuart McAlpine, Mark Madigan, Jason Menhennet and David Stewart and Naval Rating Jeffrey Boult died on Mt Ruapehu after being caught in a blizzard during a training activity…

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