The deaths of two air force pilots and a crewman in a helicopter crash on Sunday is the cruellest of ironies. Flight Lieutenant Hayden Madsen, Flying Officer Dan Gregory and helicopter crewman Corporal Ben Carson were flying from Ohakea airbase to Wellington for Anzac Day commemorations when their Iroquois helicopter crashed into a steep, scrubby gully above State Highway 1 near Pukerua Bay.
With two other helicopters they were due to fly over the Wellington Cenotaph, the Titahi Bay Cenotaph, the National War Memorial and the Ataturk Memorial. A fourth member of the crew suffered serious chest and leg injuries but is expected to make a full recovery.
The crash is a reminder that those who serve in the armed forces do so at considerable personal risk. Since the Boer War more than 30,000 servicemen and women have lost their lives in the service of New Zealand. Many, many more have been injured.
Indeed. We have a number of friends with family members in the various arms of the Defence Force. And we were talking yesterday with a friend who has a very close family morning in 3 Squadron at Ohakea. The sense of loss there is extreme, especially following two other recent fatalities.
And the leader writer comments on the closeness of the NZDF as preparations for a military funeral are made:
The funerals will be held this week. Mourners will include not just family and friends but probably the prime minister, who has cancelled a visit to Bahrain and Kuwait to attend. That is appropriate.
As Defence chief Lieutenant General Jerry Mateparae said "We're a small defence force and we know those people. The prime minister knows them. I know them. We fly with them all of the time. They're part of our family."
They're part of a wider family too. All New Zealanders have reason to be grateful to those who carry on the proud Anzac tradition.
We do indeed. It's easy to downplay the role of the NZDF given our reduced combat capacity, but the service that NZDF members provide both in New Zealand and abroad is vital.
And we agree that it is totally appropriate that John Key has cut short his trip to the Middle East to attend the funeral. There has already been criticism of his motives from the left; we would argue that criticism would be more valid had he decided to continue with his trip, and deputise the mourning to others in government.
But this is not about politics. To do so dishonours the memory of Flight Lieutenant Hayden Madsen, Flying Officer Dan Gregory and helicopter crewman Corporal Ben Carson; three young men who put serving their country and its people above self. We will remember them.