STRATFORD, New Zealand --
The U.S. Marine Corps Forces, Pacific band held a concert as a community outreach event at the Stratford War Memorial Centre here Sept. 13.
The concert is part of a recently-begun yearlong celebration of the 70th anniversary of U.S. Marines landing in Wellington in 1942.
This is not the first time Marines have been in Aotearoa, the native Maori term for New Zealand, said David Huebner, the U.S. Ambassador to New Zealand. Right after the outbreak of World War II, the Marines and Army came to protect the Aotearoa homeland.
“As many of you know, we are coming up on the 70th anniversary of the war in the Pacific, which is our area of operation,” said Chief Warrant Officer 3 Michael Smith, the officer-in-charge of the MARFORPAC Band. “It’s exciting for us because we get a chance to retrace our history 70 years later as it occurred.”
Over the course of the war, approximately 200,000 Marines and soldiers came through New Zealand on their way to or from the island battles in the Pacific.
“One of the foundations of the very warm relationship between our two countries is the great debt of gratitude the Americans hold for the kindness shown to our military folks during the war,” Huebner said. “For many of our young men, the last moment of kindness and happiness they had was here in Aotearoa before going to battles from which they never returned and we’re deeply grateful for all of that. Therefore, we are delighted to bring you the Marines.”
Students from St. Joseph’s Primary, Stratford High and St. Mary’s High Schools, along with the people from the Stratford community attended the concert.
“It is good for (the Marines) to come back, and it’s good for them to come to see all of New Zealand,” said Natasha Sutton, a young schoolgirl here who attended the event with her parents.
As the show band broke away from their chairs and into the aisles to play “Sing, Sing, Sing,” girls of the St. Mary’s High School jumped out of their seats and screamed in approval of the Marines’ performance. The show band even had a few of the senior citizens of the community out of their seats as they played for them.
As the concert ended, many from the local community stayed to compliment and converse with the Marines. Several called the concert “absolutely wonderful” and cheers went up at the announcement that the Marines should be returning next year to celebrate the actual date of the 70th anniversary.