As Aotearoa spends Christmas with their loved ones, 150 New Zealand Defence Force personnel are serving aborad. Forty-five of those soldiers are currently deployed to Iraq, more than 15,000 kilometers away from Aotearoa. We spoke to three Māori soldiers based in Camp Taji.
Even through Christmas Ngāti Tūmatauenga continues with its mission to protect freedom across the globe.
“Working, working, working, working. Yeah, the work never stops here. Especially on Christmas we don’t take breaks,” says PTE Eric Neale-Penny (Ngāti Kahungunu).
Every 6-months at Camp Taji there is an official handover where exiting soldiers welcome the new contingent taking over. For three Māori soldiers, soldiering in war-torn countries is an opportunity of a lifetime.
“So I’m out here in Camp Taji, what I’m doing here exactly is helping the Anzac contingent, by providing security for the trainers, so that they can train the Iraqi security forces themselves,” PTE Liston Ngatai (Ngāpuhi, Whakatōhea) explains.
“Last month we were deployed to Iraq and we’ll be here for 6 months,” LT Lisa Kenny (Tūwharetoa, Ngāti Kahungunu) says.
Being deployed overseas means spending time away from their whānau.
“To my friends and family back home, mainly my mum and my dad, I hope you're doing well, and to Claire, and my little brother Caius, I love you. And to Michal, Taylor and Michael hope you're doing well,” PTE Ngatai says.
“To my parents, my brothers, and my sister into my girlfriend Madison. and my daughter Bailey I love you all very much and I hope you have a really good Christmas. Dad misses you girl and I'll see you soon you,” PTE Neale-Penny says.
“Sending love home to our families in New Zealand. Especially to my daughter Kaea, have a beautiful Christmas my baby Māmā loves you,” LT Kenny says.
Aotearoa wishes all our serving NZDF soldiers a happy and safe Christmas.