US Marines pitch in to pump up donations on Poppy Day

Lieutenant Colonel John Black, Paul O'Connor and Staff Sergeant Geoffrey Halterman were posted to the Bridge of ...
STACY SQUIRES/FAIRFAX NZ

Lieutenant Colonel John Black, Paul O'Connor and Staff Sergeant Geoffrey Halterman were posted to the Bridge of Remembrance on Friday.

The United States Marine Corps has sent in reinforcements to help with Christchurch's Poppy Day drive.

Lieutenant Colonel John Black and Staff Sergeant Geoffrey Halterman travelled to the Garden City on Friday to assist with the Returned and Services Association's (RSA) poppy-selling efforts before Anzac Day – a tradition held since 1922.

It was the first time Marines have visited the city for the charity drive after 10 years working in Wellington alongside New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF) personnel on Poppy Day.

Staff Sergeant Geoffrey Halterman hands a poppy to tram driver Larry Day.
STACY SQUIRES/FAIRFAX NZ

Staff Sergeant Geoffrey Halterman hands a poppy to tram driver Larry Day.

"Anzac Day is very similar to Memorial Day or Veterans Day [in the US] so it hits us right in the heart and we really sympathise with the troops that were lost," Halterman said.

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This year also hols significance for both nations as the 75th anniversary of when American soldiers arrived in New Zealand during World War II.

Between 15,000 and 45,000 American servicemen were in camp in New Zealand at any one time between June 1942 and mid-1944, to provide security against the threat of Japanese invasion.

The trip to Christchurch was "our way of saying thank you" to both the NZDF and RSA "just for doing what they do", Black said.

"When you look at servicemen and women, they're willing to give everything to their nation, so this is just a small way to say thank you to those who stood up."

Halterman said the Christchurch visit had been "overwhelmingly positive".

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"New Zealand as a whole has always been kind and courteous – the people here are wonderful."

Paul O'Connor, the RSA's recently retired treasurer and on site with the Marines, said their presence had meant sales were "15 or 20 times greater".

"It's been fantastic. I've organised Poppy Day for the last 10 years . . . I came down and was collecting here this morning, so I know what it's like here.

"They [the public] love a man in uniform."

 - The Press

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