NATION

A Sacrifice Worth Remembering

Remembrance Day (November 11, 2018) is a day that we in Fiji will once again look back to with a deep sense of gratitude to our men and women in
03 Nov 2018 11:34
A Sacrifice Worth Remembering
The statue commemorating Sergeant Talaiasi Labalaba was unveiled by the The Duke of Sussex, Prince Harry at the Nadi International Airport on October 24, 2018.

Remembrance Day (November 11, 2018) is a day that we in Fiji will once again look back to with a deep sense of gratitude to our men and women in uniform who have made the supreme sac­rifice in war and in international peacekeeping missions abroad.

The sacrifice of Corporal Sefanaia Sukanaivalu, who won the Victoria Cross in the swamps of Bougain­ville, will once again be recalled.

He won the Victoria Cross after sacrificing his life so that his fellow soldiers could live to fight another day. He lies buried with his fallen comrades at the Commonwealth Military Cemetery at Bitapaka on the island of Rabaul in Papua New Guinea.

Included in the graves of Fijian soldiers buried at Bitapaka is the grave of an Unknown Soldier from Fiji. He is listed as a Fijian Scout or Commando who was killed in battle against the enemy on the island of Bougainville in 1944.

Many countries around the world have recovered the remains of their own Unknown Soldier and interred them in a special memorial or Cen­otaph referred to as The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

The tradition of the Unknown Soldier was started by the British in 1920. They recovered the uniden­tified remains of one of their own soldiers who was killed in France during World War 1 (1914-1918) and entombed the remains in Westmin­ster Abbey in London on November 11, 1920.

Many other countries including the USA, France, Canada, Australia and New Zealand took up the idea and entombed Unknown Soldiers of their own in a specially built Cenotaph (Memorial).

It serves as an important unifying symbol in those countries. It re­minds them of the price they have had to pay for peace.

In Fiji, we do not have a formal Tomb of the Unknown Soldier to serve as the focus of our national remembrance service.

We do, however, have a National War Memorial at Veiuto that is still being developed and which will ultimately include a War Museum and a Clubhouse for veterans.

At Veiuto, the names of Fijians who died serving with the British Army are also inscribed. A statue of Sergeant Talaiasi Labalaba, who was killed in action in 1972 while serving with the British Special Air Service (SAS) Regiment, was only recently unveiled in Nadi by His Royal Highness Prince Harry.

The men in the British Army are the sons of Fiji too and deserve to be so honoured in this way by hav­ing their names etched at Veiuto alongside those of their fellow countrymen who have made the su­preme sacrifice.

It is perhaps an opportune time for the people of Fiji to consider the construction of Fiji’s own Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at the site in Veiuto.

Such a memorial will be a national unifying symbol that will also sig­nify our maturity as a nation.

On 11 November 2018, we will once again assemble with dignified si­lence at the National War Memori­al site in Veiuto to honour the sons of Fiji who have perished in the service of our country. We honour them because they gave their lives for our tomorrow.

Source: RSESA, Walu Bay

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