Why war veteran Paul Thomas doesn't attend Anzac Day services

By Jessica Tyson, Tapatahi

Paul Thomas is the Vietnam veteran who successfully campaigned for the repatriation of 27 tūpāpaku, soldiers who died in South East Asia between 1955 and 1971.

Thomas, of Ngāpuhi and Ngāti Kahu, currently lives in Perth, Australia, and says Anzac Day is not a special day for him.

“I remember all those that sacrificed so much, every day, he says.

"They should be remembered as often as possible, not only on a national holiday."

Among the tūpāpaku he had repatriated from East Asia was his 21-year-old brother Adrian who died in Malaysia on 2 May 1956.  He was one of eight brothers from the same whānau.

Thomas’ campaign, Te Auraki, was completed in 2018, 42 years after his promise to his mum he would return his brother to Aotearoa.

“I think of him a lot. I think of the very close friends that I lost in Vietnam up there in 1969, 70. So to me every day is special because I’m still alive, and reflecting on those friends and my brother.”

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Thomas doesn’t attend services on Anzac Day. Instead he takes time every day to remember his loved ones.

“The first things I do every morning…before I put my feet on the floor, I think of those people who helped give us the world that we have today, he says.

“And I guess to me that is more special than going out celebrating with the masses. And it’s just a personal refection I do on a daily bases.”

Thomas says he was seriously wounded when he served in Vietnam.

“It reminds me that I’ve got a make full use of the time that I have here.”

He says the sacrifices made by people in war were made for everybody and they should be remembered as often as possible.