Last weekend, Kereama Graham Hare Wirangitakina passed away at his home in Waiouru. Known to many as Graham Wi or just Wiina, Graham was a friend, colleague and mentor to many of us. He was laid to rest yesterday.
One of the many tributes to Wiina, said that this video montage was one of his favourites – as it will be for many who passed through the gates of Dieppe Barracks in the 1980s although it might be entitled The Usual Suspects
I’ve taken the liberty of including some of the tributes to Wiina to illustrate the man and the effect that he had on so many…
Hey brothers. We carried our bro into the Wharenui at the Waiouru Marae and he looked so at peace after his years of silent suffering. For those of yous that haven’t seen him for some time, he progressively got worse over the years. Spoke to his brother and mum, as sad as it is, it was a blessing in disguise and he is now at peace back with his whanau in the sunny far north. He will have a catch-up with his long lost bro Andy Warren in heavenly peace. ONWARDS brothers.
Kereama Graham Hare Wirangitakina, I have been thinking all week about how you have influenced my life, and finally I know what to say. Long before I became a father, you explained and showed me what fatherhood actually meant. Little did I know at the time, that conversation would shape my understanding of parenting. There were many other snippets of gold in my memories of you Cpl Wi (Cpl at the time), but to me, this was undoubtedly your greatest impact on my life. I will be forever indebted to the interest you took in helping mold who I am today.
I am sorry I cannot be there to say farewell, but I will certainly be charging a very full glass of Rum to you….many times. Take it easy Wi, thanks again and RIP.
Chur whanau just arrived back from Wi’s tangi and I can report that things went really well. Soldiers, whanau and friends came together…we sang, we laughed, we remembered, we haka’d, we had orders, we had confirmitory orders, we rehearsed, we got cheeky, we got angry, we took a spiritual journey to Te Reinga, we had the meanest weather, and we comforted one another.
Although it was a collective effort lead by capable men and women, a big mihi goes out to the bro Soli! Nei ra te mihi atu ki a koe te kaihautu o te waka nei. The spirit of Ngati Tumatauenga is well and truly alive…mai nga piki me nga heke we will always stand tall in the face of adversity. If I can sum it up in one word “SPEECHLESS”!!
E Winar, okioki i te atawhai o te Atua bro…till we meet again dear friend.
Te taimana whero
Taimana ki runga
Taimana ki raro
Taimana i te kura takahi puni
Wiina’s generation shaped the New Zealand Army for the better part of three decades, and through that interface, they were also a formative influence on large parts of New Zealand society at all levels. If one word could sum up this generation it would be ‘standards’ – a closer runner-up for those who know them, might also be ‘mischiefs’…
I don’t remember when I first met Graham Wi, as I knew him, it would have been as a very junior soldier in 2/1 RNZIR in Burnham or 1 RNZIR in Singapore some time in the mid-80s. But my most memorable recollection of him is from 1 RNZIR after it relocated from Singapore to the Manawatu in 1989. I think it was 1993 or ’94, and responsibility for conducting infantry corps training (infantry specialist training after recruit training) had passed to Alpha Company, 1 RNZIR. To regenerate the battalion’s numbers a lot of infantry soldiers had been recruited but the recruit depot in Waiouru was unable to handle the numbers and issued an ultimatum to the effect of ‘…you want them trained, you come and train them…’ As a result, 1 RNZIR sent a platoon commander, platoon sergeant, and some corporals to Waiouru to train a platoon’s worth of infantry recruits. Graham Wi was the that platoon sergeant.
When these young soldiers passed out of their recruit training and arrived in Linton, we were all struck by their professionalism, enthusiasm and standards – read between the lines, and you might gather that not all the products of the recruit depot at this time were as impressive. Then we started to to hear whispers from Waiouru that the 1 RNZIR training team that we had sent there might not have played by the PC rules and perhaps some of the recruits had been mistreated i.e. that their professionalism, enthusiasm and standards might be more due to fear than the infantry ethos and culture.
I asked Graham about it directly. His response was a disdainful glance north (towards Waiouru) “…Nah. All we did was introduce these young men to the concept of standards and the principle that those standards weren’t coming down to meet them…we set the bar and they all came up to it…it IS that simple…” In the months we worked with those young soldiers, that message came through again and again…they were there because they wanted to be there…they sought challenges for the satisfaction of overcoming them…
Kereama Graham Hare Wirangitakina’s generation taught an army to do the job right (regardless of your personal opinion on whether it needed to be be done or not), to be an example to yourself and those around, to fault-check and get the detail right, to push on that little bit further, over just one more false crest…
Onward, old friend…