SGT Pullen (second from left, back row) performs with the New Zealand Defence Force Maori Cultural Group at the Cassino Railway Station Memorial.
21 May 2014
Air Force Safety and Surface technician Sergeant (SGT) Darren Pullen, from Patea, loves to sing as part of the New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF) Maori Cultural Group (MCG) who captivated the veterans and everyone in attendance during the 70th anniversary commemorations of the Battle of Cassino in Italy.
The commemorations were attended by 38 Cassino war veterans from New Zealand who are all in their nineties and are accompanied by a 25-strong team of health professionals and carers from the NZDF and Veterans’ Affairs New Zealand.
The MCG performed at all of the New Zealand commemorative services, including one at the Commonwealth War Graves Cemetery and one at the Cassino Railway Station.
The Cassino Railway Station was of special significance to the New Zealanders because it was the scene of a fierce battle between the 28th Maori Battalion and the opposing forces.
SGT Pullen who is based at Ohakea says being part of the MCG is "like being part of another big family".
"We practise a lot and put a lot of effort into our work but it is all worth it, especially when you see how much people, like the veterans, enjoy it."
The veterans weren't the only ones who enjoyed it, His Royal Highness Prince Harry spoke to the members of the MCG after the service and commended them on their singing.
SGT Pullen said that when the group members were not performing they were helping the veterans, or listening to their stories.
"They have so much life experience, and the sacrifice and effort that they put in during the war is inspiring. They lost people they loved, even their brothers.
"It was an honour to be able to accompany them and to be part of the commemorations," said SGT Pullen.