Yesterday I, along with perhaps 400 other 'decent' New Zealanders, went to the interment of Private Richard Harris at the urupa just down from the family Marae on SH1 on the long straight between Okaihau and the Rangiahuia Bridge (Adolf will know it well).
It was an occasion marked with huge pride and huge sadness and great dignity. As you would expect there were many members from both the Northland and Taranaki branches of the family present along with a very large contingent from Richard's 2/1 Battalion, RNZIR, a significent number from the Patamahoe Rugby Club (just out of Pukekohe) and many returned servicemen including one of the few surviving members of 28 Maori Battalion along with veterans from Malaya, Borneo and Vietnam and later conflicts.
The service itself was short and sharp and in accordance with the rites of the Ratana Church and, as is the want on these occasions, it bucketed down just as the casket was being lowered into the grave which had many of the Maori present nodding in approval. Perhaps the most poignant memory I will take away was the haka performed Richards military mates in farewell. I have seen many haka, I have never seen one done with such passion.
Back to the heading. What a contrast. The love, the pride, the dignity and the passion at the funeral compared with the sick, sad mouthings of Barbara Sumner-Burstyn and those who sought to associate themselves with her by defending the indefensible.
I had the privilege of speaking with a number of soldiers present who had served in Afghanistan. To a man they said that Ms S-B had simply no idea of the mission of the PRT and how they operated. They said Ms S-B should step out of her ivory castle and seek to visit the PRT to see on the ground the difference they were making .... but they doubted she would have the courage or whit to do so.
Richard Harris, RIP.
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