By Roger Childs

The first American Memorial Day Service in the World was held at the Marines Memorial in Queen Elizabeth Park on Monday morning. Wreaths were laid, flags flown, speeches given and the Last Post and Reveille played. There was even a description from Leon Uris’s Battle Cry of a route march to and from Foxton superbly delivered by Anthony Dreaver. 

Tomorrow will be Memorial Day in the States and around the nation in thousands of cities, towns and hamlets services will be held to remember Americans who gave their lives in the many wars the USA has fought over the last 240 years.

The US also has a Veterans Day on 11 November when they recall the service of all men and women who participated in conflicts and returned home.

A key part of our history

It is 80 years since the Marines were in New Zealand to defend the country against a Japanese invasion. It was a distinct possibility; fortunately American victories in the Battles of the Midway and the Coral Sea turned the potential invaders back and New Zealand was safe. 

Here in Kapiti there were three camps – Russell, Mackay and Paekakariki – south of Raumati South which housed 15,000 Marines at any one time. They transformed the village of Paekakariki – population, about 500. The people took them into their hearts and homes; some local women later married Marines and the today the Kapiti US Marines Trust preserves this important heritage in a number of ways. 

There is the Park Marines Memorial, a restored camp hut, a special structure remembering the 10 US sailors who were drowned off the coast, the museum in Paekakariki Station, informative notices of various features in Camp Mackay and a magnificent recently erected Camp Paekakariki memorial in Queen Elizabeth Park.

This crucial part of our history will of course be passed on to students in the new history curriculum? Sadly, No.