Every year, Tikipunga High School is one of a number of schools in Northland that hold pre-Anzac Day assemblies where students pay respect to the old soldiers of their community and families.

Yesterday, the annual assembly was dedicated to the Vietnam War with mention also of the Korean War and the conflict known as the Malayan Emergency.

Students from the school's Service Academy, who recently returned from an induction course at Waiouru Army Camp, served as podium and ensign troops. They are all in Tikipunga High School's 2016 Vietnam Class.

(Lance Corporal) Makayla Haika spoke of the conflict which caused controversy at home while Kiwi soldiers were on active duty in Vietnam between 1965 and 1974. Makayla said the soldiers were not given a heroes' welcome as their fathers and grandfathers had been when they too returned from earlier wars.


Among guests at the assembly were veterans of the post-World War II conflicts, including former Sergeant Major Dick Shepherd who served twice in Malaya and then in Vietnam with the New Zealand Army's V Company.

"It's a privilege to be invited here to talk about Vietnam," Mr Shepherd said.

He outlined his service, from being conscripted for three months compulsory military training in the mid-1950s as an 18 year old, to signing up fulltime and serving overseas. Unlike with previous wars, television brought the horrors of Vietnam into New Zealanders' home which further fuelled a public backlash against this country's involvement, he said.

"The unpopularity of [this conflict] exploded when we came home."

Mr Shepherd said if he were asked what were the three things that made him what he is today he would say, "Faith, hope and respect. Faith because you had to believe in yourself and your fellow soldiers; hope because if things went wrong hope gave you another option; respect for everything you have - your country, community, family, school."