A Christ­mas bonus for mil­i­tary staff

Upper Hutt Leader - - FRONT PAGE - COLIN WIL­LIAMS

They might not know it yet but Christ­mas came a lit­tle closer on Thurs­day for the coun­try’s 300 mil­i­tary per­son­nel serv­ing over­seas.

At lit­tle more than an hour, the Royal Re­turned and Ser­vices As­so­ci­a­tion’s Christ­mas Gift Par­cel project went off with suit­able mil­iary pre­ci­sion at the New Zealand De­fence Force sports com­plex, op­po­site the Tren­tham mil­i­tary base.

RSA of­fi­cials and staff, de­fence per­son­nel, pri­mary school chil­dren and rep­re­sen­ta­tives from Food­stuffs and Z En­ergy, the main spon­sors, were all on hand and help­ing.

Their work will de­liver a real taste of a Kiwi Christ­mas to ev­ery sol­dier, sailor and air­man and woman over­seas.

Much-loved Kiwi treats in each 35-item pack­age in­cluded Mar­mite, peanut slabs, An­zac bis­cuits, onion soup, chew­ing gum, and lol­lies and even some more prac­ti­cal items.

RSA na­tional pres­i­dent B J Clark said the Christ­mas project had been op­er­at­ing for 76 years.

It had evolved into a real com­mu­nity ef­fort which, with more than $10,000 of goods do­nated, was cost-neu­tral for the RSA.

’’It’s a won­der­ful col­lab­o­ra­tion. There’s some 300-plus serv­ing over­seas at Christ­mas and so each one of them, it doesn’t mat­ter where they are in the world, will re­ceive one of our parcels.’’

Each par­cel also con­tains a Christ­mas card, de­signed by pri­mary school chil­dren and com­ing with their hand-writ­ten good wishes.

‘‘They’ve got some won­der­ful mes­sages in there,’’ Clark said.

‘‘You can imag­ine some ser­vice per­son­nel sep­a­rated from their fam­i­lies and there’s this card with a won­der­ful mes­sage.

‘‘I’m sure there will be a wet eye or two when they do that.’’

‘‘We re­ally want the men and women over­seas to know we ap­pre­ci­ate their work a lot,’’ Mt Cook Year 7 school stu­dent Le’aniva So’a said.

Joint Forces Bri­gadier Mike Sha­p­land was one of the day’s pack­ers.

‘‘The value of a a soup packet might only be $1.99 but you couldn’t put a price on this.’’

NZ De­fence Force over­seas are in: Afghanistan, Antarc­tica, the Mid­dle East,


Mt Cook pri­mary school stu­dents Le’aniva So’a, left, and Ed­die Nhim pack the com­mu­nity gift parcels with the RSA’s Rochelle Grif­fin while the as­so­ci­a­tion’s na­tional pres­i­dent BJ Clark looks on. Be­low, some of the good­ies.

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