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From Marton to Messines Battle Grounds

Flight Sergeant Cadet Aaron Mulligan visits some of the fallen from the Battle of Messines, alongside Royal New Zealand Returned and Services’ Association representative Derek Nees.
Flight Sergeant Cadet Aaron Mulligan visits some of the fallen from the Battle of Messines, alongside Royal New Zealand Returned and Services’ Association representative Derek Nees.

8 June 2016

Honouring service and sacrifice has been a continued effort for a young Air Force cadet who has travelled to Belgium to take part in the Battle of Messines centenary commemorations.

Flight Sergeant Cadet Aaron Mulligan, 16, has travelled from his home town of Marton to Messines with the New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF) as one of three youth ambassadors chosen from the New Zealand Cadet Forces.

It was on the Western Front that New Zealand made its most significant contribution to the First World War, and also where New Zealand suffered the greatest loss of life.

The two main commemorations in Belgium were the New Zealand National Commemorative Service to Mark the 100th Anniversary of the Battle of Messines at Messines Ridge British Commonwealth War Graves Cemetery and a sunset ceremony at the New Zealand Battlefield Memorial in New Zealand Memorial Park, both on June 7.

There was also a Last Post ceremony at Menin Gate, Ieper.

When Flight Sergeant Cadet Mulligan got the call telling him he had been successful he had an unusual reaction.

“I was ecstatic to the point of silence, which is very rare,” he said.

The cadets had to write an essay detailing why they should be chosen to represent the youth of New Zealand as part of the contingent.

Flight Sergeant Cadet Mulligan is no stranger to commemorations, because he organises all the Anzac Day and Armistice Day parades at his school.

And his continued diligence has been recognised by the Royal New Zealand Returned and Services’ Association (RNZRSA), with president BJ Clark awarding him an honorary youth membership, making him the youngest RNZRSA member.

The Rangitikei College student joined the 32 Squadron Air Training Corps in Fielding four years ago, after Cadet Forces visited his school.

“I know I want a career in the Defence Force. I’m just not sure yet whether it will be Air Force or Army,” he said.

As part of the NZDF contingent Flight Sergeant Cadet Mulligan was to assist with wreath bearing and other ceremonial tasks during the commemorations. And he was looking forward to the learning experience.

“I want to learn as much as possible from the personnel on the trip and being around regular force personnel means I can see what I could achieve with a career in the Defence Force,” he said.

While he doesn’t have a relative connection to the Messines battle he said he would be laying poppies on behalf of several Marton families as the contingent visits cemeteries in the Messines area.

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