Medal campaign for soldier who perished during training exercise

By Herewini Waikato

A campaign has been launched to upgrade the New Zealand Bravery Medal awarded to Private David Stewart.

Private Stewart died along with five other soldiers during an army training exercise on Mount Ruapehu 31 years ago. Despite the passage of time, some army veterans believe the extent of his bravery must be remembered and recognised. 

Retired Sergeant Major Bob Davies says the reason Private Stewart lost his life was that he was trying to protect his comrades when they were caught in a blizzard during the training exercise in 1990.

"David's actions on Mount Ruapehu resulted in the loss of his life and the reason he died was because of selfless, courageous actions in keeping others alive. He gave up some of his equipment, he was in and out of his sleeping bag during a ferocious storm where people were dying around him. He kept people alive by getting the ice, snow off their chests and at the end of the day it cost him his life."

He tangata hūmārie

The Stewart whānau gathered at the Anzac commemorations in Taupō over the weekend to honour Private Stewart and those who lost their lives on Mount Ruapehu alongside him. His whānau share fond memories of their beloved brother.

"He tangata hūmārie, he tangata aroha, he tangata whakapono, he tangata hīanga, he tangata puku mahi ki te mahi kai," his mother Kathy Stewart says.

(He was a gentle person, a loving person, an honest person, a cheeky person, a person who did a lot of work when it came to food).

Sister Veronique Stewart says Private Stewart was a Rambo-type character.

"He was tough, he was a hunter-gatherer," she says.

Davies hopes the campaign for a New Zealand Bravery Medal to be awarded to Private David Stewart is accepted and initiated by the Prime Minister.