Memorial Day to be celebrated in Queen Elizabeth Park
30 May 2010
Memorial Day (the United States equivalent of ANZAC Day) will be celebrated with a short flag-raising service at the Marine's Memorial in Queen Elizabeth Park today (31 May 2010).
The service will commemorate the lives of nearly half a million U.S. service men and women who lost their lives in World War 11, and acknowledge the relationship Kapiti had with the Marines, while they defended the country and prepared for the war in the Pacific between 1942 and 1944.
Organised by the newly formed Kapiti/U.S.Marines Trust, the service will be attended by: dignitaries from the United States Embassy, the New Zealand Defence Force Cadets, the RSA, KCDC Councillors and Community Board members, members of the Paekakariki Station Trust and members of the public.
It will include a haka powhiri, performed by Te Roopu Kapa Haka o Paekakariki, a flag-raising ceremony, an address from Mayor Jenny Rowan and the launch of a new Trust, which aims to revitalize Kapiti/U.S. Marine's history.
Jenny Rowan, who is also Chair of the Trust, says: "the long-term vision of the Trust is to establish a village tourist destination based on American Marine history in a great Kiwi environment."
She says because Kapiti was the site of one of New Zealand's most colourful local war stories "the District is well-positioned to recreate this unique slice of US/Kiwi history for generations to come."
Between 1942 and 1944, more than 20,000 American Marines were stationed at Camp Russell (now Queen Elizabeth Park), Camp Mackay (now Whareroa Farm) and Camp Paekakariki.
These camps were built in a record six weeks – bringing huge social change to the whole Wellington region and in particular, Paekakariki and its people.
Ms Rowan said, while it was "hard to imagine 20,000 seeming exotic young men living all around Paekakariki," soldiers were a common sight - not only in Kapiti but also in Wellington and across the rest of New Zealand.
She said she had formed the Trust because the Council had recently received a very generous grant from the United States Embassy - to help foster a number of local initiatives to tell the Kapiti/US Marines story on the Coast.
"The new venture will foster local history-telling about the Marines and their relationship with us in Kapiti," she says.
Ms Rowan said a substantial part of the grant is earmarked for the Paekakariki Station Trust to mount a major exhibition on the Marines to co-incide with the Rugby World Cup next year.
She said 2012 was also the 70th anniversary of the Marine's encampment in New Zealand and this would provide another opportunity to develop Marine's history.
"We want to set up a web portal to tell the story of the Kapiti/U.S. Marines connection. There are also opportunities to put small exhibitions into the new USS Arizona Memorial Museum in Hawaii, and another into the National Museum of Marines in Quantico, Virginia.
"Another ideas is to work with a range of other not-for-profit and government agencies, to develop a walkway – through the key sites in Paekakariki, Whareroa Farm and Queen Elizabeth Park," she said.
"If we work together, this initiative has the potential to enhance the Kiwi/American relationship in a positive and real way; improve and develop our US Marines collection; bring an important part of New Zealand war history to life, and create a niche regional tourism venture that is beneficial to all of us.
"What we have to offer in Kapiti is the opportunity to make this story more vibrant, and personal – by bringing it to life, with the people, and on the land where it was first enacted," she said.