Rodney Hide: Bring our heroes home

Cheras Christian Cemetery. Photo / AP
Cheras Christian Cemetery. Photo / AP

Paul Thomas is from a remarkable family of eight boys and three girls. All eight boys served in the New Zealand army. Five saw active duty.

Two brothers served in Korea. One brother, Adrian, was an original member of the NZSAS. He was shot and killed on patrol in Malaya on 2 May 1956. He was 21.

A fourth brother saw active duty in Borneo, Malaya and South Vietnam.

Fifth brother Paul joined the army at 16, dreaming of becoming a physical training instructor.

He saw active service in Vietnam in 1969-70. His platoon was ambushed on March 19 in the Long Phuc Hai ranges, Phuoc Tuy province.

Paul was badly wounded. He had over a year in Middlemore Hospital. That was followed by six months' rehabilitation before he could take on a job as a clerk.

Last month Paul went to Parliament to petition the Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Committee to bring home brother Adrian and 31 of his fallen comrades buried in Malaysia.

These men are not buried in protected and cared for commonwealth War Graves Cemetery with which we are familiar.

Adrian is buried at Cheras War Cemetery. It's beside the very busy six-lane Cheras Highway and a pile from the overhead railway just is just 12 paces from Adrian's headstone.

It's not a respectful, solemn place.

Sixteen Kiwis are buried at Terendak Camp Military Cemetery in Malacca, Malaysia, where access is restricted.

In 1976 Paul's mum asked him to bring brother Adrian home to the family cemetery in Waitaruke, Northland. He promised his mum he would do his best.

He has been campaigning ever since. Successive governments have always said no.

What started as a request from his mum has become a mission on behalf of all the families.

When it was last considered in 2007 the estimated cost to bring the boys home was $100,000-$250,000.

Minister Craig Foss is now reconsidering the Government's position since Paul's petition.

It's not a lot to ask for a mum who had her eight boys serve and one paying the ultimate price. It would seem the least we can do.

- Herald on Sunday

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Rodney Hide

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