Whānau and returned serviceman commemorated the return of New Zealand's 28th Māori Battalion B company 75 years ago with a "spine-tingling" hīkoi today.
The last surviving member of the B Company, Bom Gillies, put the call out to honour those he fought beside and whānau from across the rohe attended.
Richard Ngatai said he would forever hold the commemoration close to his heart.
"It was a very special time, it was spine-tingling.
"There was a lot of emotion, rightfully so. There were a few tears shed by a lot of whānau but it was about a celebration more than anything else and remembering the sacrifice that they gave to this wonderful country that we live in.
"It was a celebration really of what they have achieved."
Despite the drizzly start, Ngatai said it was a fantastic morning and considering the pandemic that was causing havoc outside New Zealand's borders, he felt lucky to be part of the celebrations.
The day began with a military parade from the southern end of Tūtānekai to Tūnōhopu Marae.
Rotorua Central Mall was once the train station where the men from the B Company departed for World War II.
Victoria Cross recipient Willie Apiata was in attendance as Gillies led the hikoi in an army vehicle through Hinemoa St to Tamatekapua at Ohinemutu where the formalities took place.
He was followed by whānau of the people who served and returned serviceman.
For Ngatai, the day held some significance for his uncle who died in battle.
"John Ingram was my grandmother's brother.
"He fought in the battle of the Hill in Takrouna and sadly lost his life fighting for his country."
Three of Ngatai's six children attended today's hīkoi. He believed it was important for them to understand the sacrifices many had made for them to be living as they are.
"Kids don't really grasp the concept of how special it is, but I am doing anything I can to have my kids participate in any sort of hui or gathering in this manner.
"What better way to move forward than to acknowledge the past."