Private Christian Hohepa, centre, says joining the New Zealand Army made him feel a little closer to his grandfather by following a similar path.
24 April 2017
Tradition runs strongly through the veins of a young soldier from Ruatoria who is paying his respects to the fallen in France and Belgium on Anzac Day.
Private Christian Hohepa, 22, is part of the Maori Cultural Group with the New Zealand Defence Force contingent that is on the Western Front to hold several commemorative services in the two countries.
New Zealand’s international First World War commemorations this year will focus on the Western Front, where New Zealand made its most significant contribution to the First World War, and also where it suffered the greatest loss of life.
“My grandfather John Grace was part of C Company in the 28th Maori Battalion and he was a big inspiration in my decision to join the Army,” Private Hohepa said. “And Ruatoria is also the home town of Sir Apirana Ngata.
“I never got to meet my grandfather. He was one of the many lucky soldiers who got to return home but sadly died of cancer before I was born.”
Private Hohepa says joining the New Zealand Army made him feel a little closer to his grandfather by following a similar path.
He joined primarily to help people.
“It was always a dream of mine as a kid to join the military and help to serve our country.”
A former Ngata Memorial College student, Private Hohepa joined the Army straight from school at 18. He completed his apprenticeship at the end of 2016 and is now a qualified armourer based at Linton Military Camp.
“As an armourer I fix and maintain all Army service weapons to ensure they are effective and efficient for our soldiers.”
It’s not the first time Private Hohepa has been overseas to honour those who have served in military conflicts.
“I was also lucky enough to join the Anzac contingent that travelled to Gallipoli last year,” he says.
“It is an absolute honour to be part of the contingent. I was a day late to the selection wananga so I had to work twice as hard to earn my position. I almost gave up, thinking I was going to be too late, but then I thought to myself, ‘If you never try, the answer will always be no’.
“It just goes to show, hard work and persistence pays off. The other members are awesome and the tutors are second to none. I’m part of a great team.”
A military career provides an opportunity for people to experience the bigger picture, which does not always happen if you are from a small town, Private Hohepa says.
“It is a solid career and you get to gain knowledge and have experiences that others never will,” he says.
Information about the Anzac Day-related ceremonies and First World War commemorations can be found at WW100.govt.nz/international-commemorations.