19 December 2018
New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF) servicemen and women serving overseas are counting the days until they open Christmas packages sent by the Royal New Zealand Returned and Services’ Association (RSA).
The packages, which contain Kiwi treats and Christmas cards written by students from Mount Cook Primary School and Silverstream Primary School, were dispatched by the NZDF across the world from early October to ensure they reached New Zealand personnel serving on operations, from Antarctica to Africa, in time for Christmas.
“Receiving these Christmas packages is a great morale boost,” said Flight Sergeant Laura Brown, who is a cargo handler at Scott Base, New Zealand’s permanent research support station in Antarctica.
“It’s nice to know that we are not forgotten when we are miles away from home.”
Lance Corporal Abby Fuller, a communications operator at Scott Base, said the 11 NZDF personnel who would be spending Christmas on duty in Antarctica plan to open the packages together on Christmas Day.
“The package made me feel appreciated and brought me a little bit closer to home, which is nice because Christmas is probably one of the hardest days to be away,” said New Zealand Army Captain Penny Roy, who is a mentor at the Afghanistan National Army Officer Academy at Camp Qargha.
“I am stoked with the package and thank all those who put the time and effort into getting them to us.”
Fellow NZDF mentor Lieutenant Colonel Oiroa Kaihau said the contents of the Christmas packages were a delightful treat.
“In 1995, when I was deployed in Bosnia, we got two cans of beer wrapped with a couple of other items. This year’s packages are quite a treasure trove of goodies and they continue to be well-received,” he said.
“I have a sweet tooth and could not resist the Whittaker’s Peanut Slabs nor the Pams Finest Dark Chocolate Almond Butter.”
Sergeant Amanda Mihaere, a Supplier Technician at Camp Qargha in Afghanistan, said packets of Juicy Fruit chewing gum brought back fond memories of her childhood and were among her favourite items in the Christmas package.
“I shared some of the Whittaker’s chocolates with our Australian Defence Force colleagues and they’ve been asking when I will be getting more,” Sergeant Mihaere said.
“What struck me most though is the card from a child saying ‘thank you for serving our country.’ I felt valued.”
The Christmas packages are an initiative started by the RSA nearly 80 years ago to bring some festive cheer to the soldiers, sailors and airmen serving in the NZDF’s missions overseas.