The whānau of Hemi Te Whatu Porou, who used another name so he could bypass the age restriction to join C Company and serve in World War II with the 28th Māori Battalion, have received their pāpā's war medals at a moving ceremony in Tūranga Nui a Kiwa.
“We are lucky to have this initiative,” says Henare Porou, one of Hemi Porou’s sons.
“Our father didn't talk about these medals. Perhaps he didn't know ... I think he knew but wasn't interested in pursuing them.”
While he was at school, Hemi Te Whatu Porou signed up to join the NZ Army in World War II, and didn't return home that day. Away he went, at just 15-years-old.
“Those who survived were the lucky ones. They recalled those whose bodies remained overseas, and that's one of the reasons they stuck so close together,” Henare Porou says.
“For the family, we were very pleased to see the work David Stone and his team have done. He's a relation to my father, on our Tāmanuhiri, Rongowhaata and Māhaki side, it's really fantastic.”
Staed close to each other
Those soldiers who returned from war carried long-lasting trauma, Porou says.
“They didn't want to talk about the pain inside their heads but on ANZAC day then they would speak about it, and would cry for those from home who had passed away, but in all of those things they stayed close with each other.”
Porou says his father changed after the arrival of his grandchildren, easing some of the long-term burdens that the returned soldiers carried.
“When we grew up, there were times when it wasn't really great at our house, the alcohol, the pain, the arguments and the growling but, when our children arrived, and he held his first grandchild, those pains diminished.”
With ANZAC Day approaching and just one surviving member of the 28th Māori Battalion, may we never forget the sacrifice and service of the C Company "Kaupoi".