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Opinion

Remembering 40 Years Of Peacekeping

Remembering 40 Years  Of Peacekeping
June 10
11:59 2018

A soldier once said that no one is as proud as a soldier fighting for his country.

It is a true sentiment if you were to know the story of the many young Fijian men who were deployed to a foreign country they had no knowledge of.

That is what we felt when we were called to hold the peace in a Middle Eastern country far away.

We were not fighting for our country, but we were representing our nation on a foreign soil that had seen many ancient wars and conflicts.

Lebanon is a country of many sights – the natural beauty, the historical cathedrals, sweet smelling cedar trees and the beautiful women.

It was a country that most sons of Fiji would later call their second home.

40th anniversary and the memories

When I was told that this year marked the 40th anniversary of the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL), a feeling of deep nostalgia hit me. How time has flown.

All the happy and sad memories from yesteryears came flooding back.

The bomb threats, the ambush site at C Coy headquarters where three of our fellow comrades were killed; not forgetting the roadside bombing near the Israeli border and the last stand of the battalion. The friendship and bond we developed with the local shops and the natives of Lebanon and the hardship and the joy of always looking forward to coming back home flooded back.

When we were selected for the peacekeeping mission, the soldiers had to be fit and ready to perform in less than a month.

The selection was swift and the training was strenuous, but our spirits and morale was high.

We had a good combination of well-trained and well-disciplined soldiers selected from the Regular Force and the Territorial Brigade.   

On the day that we had to leave our beloved Fiji, I couldn’t shake off the feeling of sadness that swept over me.

I was leaving behind my young family – my beautiful wife Leba and our only son Manoa.

We had just purchased our new home at Sukanaivalu Road in Nabua and I remembered that it was full with relatives from Kadavu, Lomaiviti and Lau who came to farewell me. Neighbours and friends also arrived to say goodbye.

I recall the loud cheers from the big crowd that gathered at Queen Elizabeth Barracks (QEB) to bid their farewell to the soldiers.

The farewell church service was held at the Centenary Church before departure.

The singing was never ending as we boarded the bus from Queen Elizabeth Barracks (QEB) to Duke of Edinburgh Barracks in Lautoka where we spent a night before boarding the next day.

Old military songs such as ‘Butuka tu lei na rara ni valu, Me da dau doka, Sa moce  lei Sisi,  Biuta tu na koro  were sung over and over again to boost the morale of the soldiers especially the rookies like us who were departing home for the first time.

More, tears flowed when the then Commander of the RFMF, Colonel Paul Manueli, made his last farewell speech at the airport and reminded the soldiers of the task at hand.

First trip for some

For many young soldiers this was their first trip overseas.

The youngest were encouraged by our war veterans who acted like big brothers and uncles to us.  I remember chatting with my uncle Eroni Tamani from Bureta, Ovalau, who was an ex-Malayan veteran. His words of encouragement and advice would put me in good stead.

These soldiers were now stepping onto the shoes of their forefathers who had served bravely during World War II in the jungles of Solomon Islands and in Asia during the Malayan campaign.

The strict Wainadoi training shaped them to be professional soldiers, ready to take up arms and give their lives for their country and to those they loved so dearly just like their forefathers did.

These warriors from the Pacific would later be known as one of the best peacekeepers in the world.

Those memories came back like a movie and I thank God for blessing this nation and its soldiers.

Since that year in 1978, we have served under the UNIFIL and have performed our duty with pride.

The blood of our sons who died in Lebanon will not be forgotten.

Today I am a retired soldier and former UN Field Service Officer.

I have travelled the world and served in many countries, but I am blessed that I was part of the 1st Battalion and first Fiji contingent to serve in UNIFIL and would like to thank each soldier and their family for a job well done.

May God bless Fiji and its people forever more. 
Source: RFMF Media Cell

Feedback:  jyotip@fijisun.com.fj

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