Apiata attends new medal store
Former Special Air Services Willie Apiata, VC, followed his military training and kept a low profile at the opening of the National Army Museum medals repository in Waiouru today.
Apiata, the country's only living Victoria Cross recipient, accompanied by his new wife, Sade, and young baby, remained in the background as the new repository holding 10,000 medals was officially opened by Defence Minister Jonathan Coleman, and Chief of Defence Forces Lieutenant General Rhys Jones.
Apiata, who left the SAS and NZ Defence Force, 10 days ago to work at an Auckland outdoor activities school, said he was attending the opening to show support for the museum, and fellow soldiers.
Later in the Valour Alcove of the museum, where his and other VC recipients medals are held, Apiata chatted informally with Dr Coleman and National Army Museum director Colonel Ray Seymour.
Chief of Defence Lt Gen Rhys Jones said medals were an important part of the heritage and culture of New Zealand.
Medals dating back to the Crimea War and New Zealand Wars up to the present day were stored in the repository.
Lt Gen Jones accepted a donation of medals from the family of one of New Zealand's most-decorated commanders Colonel Sir Stephen Allen, DSO and Bar, who fought in both World Wars.
Sir Stephen's daughter Elizabeth Macky, and granddaughter Rebecca Macky made the presentation.
"To have this display now open and available to the families is a key milestone for where the museum is going," said Lt Gen Jones.
"It is a wonderful facility.
Lt Gen Jones praised the design which gave families who are connected to the medals easy access to their own heritage.
He said it was too early to tell if Lance Corporal Rory Malone, who was killed in a gunfight with insurgents in Afghanistan two weeks ago, would receive a posthumous bravery award.
Lt Gen Jones said were still doing an after-action review of the incident.
"In most battles or gunfights in war there are always elements of bravery around, it is part of the things we will look at, but none of us were there and we need to have a clear look at that and find out what bravery awards or recommendations might come out of that."
Malone was part of a team which allegedly dragged injured comrades, including Major Craig Wilson, out of the firing area, but he had not seen the details of the battle, he said.
"At this stage we are still piecing together the after action review which will give us the information about what actually happened and the details how the injuries and deaths occurred, and the actions of people on the day, so we will have to wait and see how that is completed.
Lt Gen Jones said to receive a gallantry medal the actions have to be verified and was governed by rules and procedures.
It was unknown if the six injured soldiers would return to combat at this stage, he said.
Three had returned to NZ and three were still recovering in hospitals in Europe.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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