Isaac Davison is a NZ Herald political reporter.

Plaques commemorate soldiers' sacrifice

Soldiers and families join MPs in the House during the unveiling ceremony last night. Photo / Mark Mitchell
Soldiers and families join MPs in the House during the unveiling ceremony last night. Photo / Mark Mitchell

MPs will return to the House today with three new reminders of New Zealand's losses and service in wars overseas.

Three plaques were placed at the back of the debating chamber in a ceremony last night to recognise Defence Force personnel who have been wounded or killed in Afghanistan, East Timor and missions in support of peace.

Families carrying portraits of dead soldiers were allowed onto the floor of the House. Some became tearful as the Speaker read the names of the 17 soldiers who died in the two campaigns and numerous peacekeeping missions in a roll of honour.

David Carter told the families and uniformed soldiers: "These plaques will be in the parliamentary debating chamber and as a daily reminder will acknowledge and honour our service personnel and be a reminder to members of Parliament, as they sit in this House, of the magnitude of each decision to send our people overseas on active operations."

Prime Minister John Key said that sending any New Zealander into a conflict zone was one of the most difficult decisions any political leader would ever make.

"This is not a decision taken lightly, and I acknowledge your loss. While losing a loved one is incredibly difficult, I hope it gives you some hope that your loved ones died trying to make the world a better place for you, and your families, and your country."

SAS troops attended the ceremony to pay respect to former colleagues Corporal Doug Grant and Lance Corporal Leon Smith, who were killed in separate missions in Afghanistan in 2011.

The new rimu-carved plaques filled the last vacant spaces on the walls of the debating chamber, which now has memorials for every campaign overseas since World War I.

More than 20,000 New Zealanders served in Afghanistan, East Timor and on peace missions.

- NZ Herald

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