Twenty-seven servicemen and one child who died in Malaya, Thailand, and Vietnam between 1955 and 1971 were returned to New Zealand yesterday morning.
It is believed that eight of the twenty-seven servicemen were Māori.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says, “To see them returned home and to see their families welcome them home was incredibly moving."
Sergeant George Nepia Jnr left for Hinepare Marae, Rangitukia this morning before being laid to rest at his whanau urupa.
Trooper Adrian Thomas was killed in action in Malaya in 1956 and his brother, veteran Paul Thomas, fought for forty years to get him back home.
“Today is the happiest day I’ve had since 1976.”
“Adrian had a big rapport with our grandmothers and grandfathers and everybody wanted him brought home, now he's home so it's huge."
Today Adrian Thomas will be taken back to Parirau marae in Matakohe.
Te Whakatōhea and Te Whānau-ā-Apanui iwi will receive Tuterangi Kawha and take him back to Opape Marae where he will rest.
The remains of all NZDF personnel will be returned to their respective homes and final resting places today.