Opinion: Service and sacrifice

Regional Naval Officer Lieutenant Commander Nigel Finnerty.
Regional Naval Officer Lieutenant Commander Nigel Finnerty.
As the sun rises on April 25, I will stand before the Invercargill Cenotaph, dressed in my "Number 1s", medals glinting in the morning light.

For 43 years, I’ve served in the navy, and for most of the last 23, I’ve laid a wreath on Anzac Day.

It’s a chance to reflect, not only on those who went before me and who gave the greatest sacrifice, but also to think about everyone who has served New Zealand.

Yet, Anzac Day is more than a date on the calendar. It is a bridge that spans generations, connecting us to those who came before.

As I stand there, I’ll reflect not only on their sacrifice but also on the broader tapestry of service.

It’s a day to honour those who didn’t return and to acknowledge the comradeship you make in service.

For many of us, Anzac Day isn’t confined to a single day. It begins days before, as we carefully prepare our uniforms, polish our shoes, and don our medals.

Memories flood back — the deployments away from home, the anticipation of the unknown, and the trust we placed in our mates.

We sailed out of Auckland, leaving behind family and familiar shores, often heading to the other side of the world.

For months our ship became our home, and our mess mates our family.

We wondered what lay ahead, but with the confidence of youth there was a quiet certainty that everything would be OK.

For those of us serving, Anzac Day reminds us that we are part of something greater.

As the Ode is recited, we stand shoulder to shoulder, honouring those who served, those who fell, and those who continue to serve.

It’s a day when the past converges with the present, and we connect with our comrades, both living and departed.

So, when I stand in front of the cenotaph on the 25th of April every year, it all becomes a little more real.

I feel an immense sense of pride in what those before me have done, and very lucky that I have the opportunity to lay a wreath to honour everyone who has served.

We will remember them.

— Nigel Finnerty is Regional Naval Officer Lieutenant Commander for the Royal New Zealand Navy.