Help available for ex-servicemen

Monday April 23, 2018 Written by Published in Local
A large number of individuals and organisations took part in last year's Anzac Day service. Like last year there will be only one service this year, the national remembrance civil service run by the government. A large number of individuals and organisations took part in last year's Anzac Day service. Like last year there will be only one service this year, the national remembrance civil service run by the government.

A welfare officer from New Zealand is travelling to the Cook Islands ahead of Anzac Day to talk to ex-servicemen who may be suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Injury (PTSI).

Vietnam veteran Gavin Nichols, from the Whakatane RSA in New Zealand, will be at the Cook Islands RSA on Monday, offering help dealing with PTSI to anyone who wants to speak with him.

“He’s helped thousands of ex-servicemen,” said RSA president Henry Wichman. “And he’s helped them with trying to get things repaired like their eyesight, their hearing – all sorts.”

“He’s here to help, and it’s only a dumb person that would say, ‘No, I don’t need his help’.”

Wichman added that there have been servicemen in New Zealand, Australia and even the Pacific Islands whose refusal to seek help has led them to commit suicide.

“They really needed help, but they weren’t prepared to go to the system,” he said.

Wichman urged any and all ex-servicemen around the Cook Islands to take advantage of the help offered by welfare officer Nichols.

“My son served in Iraq – he did three tours. And I said to him before he left, I said, ‘Be prepared not to see some of your mates go home with you’. Because they will be killed in active service. And they were.

“He had to pick up two of his mates and carry them out of an area. And that actually – he felt it, and he suffered from PTSI as well.”

Like last year, Anzac Day will be marked on Rarotonga this year with only one service, the national remembrance civil service run by the government.

Starting with the forming up of Anzac Day veterans from 5.30am on the eastern side of the courthouse building, the event will be attended by Queens Representative Tom Marsters, Prime minister Henry Puna, opposition leader William “Smiley” Heather, House of Ariki president Tou Travel Ariki, New Zealand High Commissioner Peter Marshall and Police Commissioner Maara Tetava.

There will also be a piper and two young drummers at the Anzac Service, one of whom is the great-great grandson of World War I veteran Robert Ngapo, who served with the first contingent in Europe.

In the Pacific, New Zealand and Australia, Anzac Day is a day of remembrance for those servicemen and women who have given their lives fighting in wars for their country.

The day traces its origins back to the date the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC) first landed at Gallipoli in Turkey during World War One, on April 25, 1915.

The Allies suffered 141,000 casualties at Gallipoli, of whom more than 44,000 died. Of the dead, 8709 were Australians and 2701 were New Zealanders.

Four Cook Islanders also served at Gallipoli, one of whom was killed in action.

In all, around 500 Cook Islanders served in World War One – a massive contribution for such a small nation.

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