Petty Officer Alana McDonald lays a poppy on her great uncle, Private John (Jack) Patrick McDonald’s headstone at the New Zealand War Graves Commission Cemetery in Bourail, New Caledonia
2 May 2013
Petty Officer Alana McDonald took her family’s wishes on her shoulders and laid a poppy of remembrance on her great-uncle’s grave in New Caledonia last week.
Alana is from Gore and her great uncle, Private John Patrick McDonald, (known as Jack), was from Waihola (near Dunedin). He served with the New Zealand Infantry in the Pacific until he died on 5 January 1943, just 25 years old.
Travelling as part of the New Zealand Defence Force’s Ceremonial Support team to Noumea to commemorate the 70th Anniversary of New Zealand’s involvement in the War in the Pacific, Alana’s role was to be part of the Catafalque Guard for both the Anzac Day service at Bir Hakeim Square in Noumea, and also at the New Zealand War Graves Commission Cemetery at Bourail, north of Noumea.
“I have already been to Noumea once before, when I was in HMNZS Canterbury in 2004, and was part of the ship’s company who went to Bourail for Anzac Day there.
“It was then that I first came across Jack's plot and thought it would be a tremendous opportunity to be able to go again.”
Alana said she knew it would be a meaningful journey for the 70th anniversary of New Zealand's involvement in the War in the Pacific.
“These men sacrificed their lives for how we live today.”
Travelling with 84 Pacific War veterans, Alana said it was a humbling experience to hear the veterans tell their stories.
“This trip would be one of my career highlights. The conversations I had with some of the veterans, and the stories they told, I will not forget for a long time to come.”
Representing her family was important for Alana.
“The day we went to Bourail, that was a really special day for me as I felt an immense sense of honour and pride to be there, and it was really good to be able to put some poppies on Jack’s plot on behalf of my family.”