Army of volunteers pack Christmas gifts for Defence Force

7:37 pm on 28 September 2017

Soldiers, navy and airforce personnel joined forces today with the Returned and Services Association, staff from Foodstuffs, Z Energy and school children to pack Christmas parcels for about 300 personnel on overseas deployments.

About 40 schoolchildren, veterans, staff from Foodstuffs and Z Energy, and New Zealand Defence Force personnel packed hundreds of Christmas treats this morning for NZDF personnel serving overseas.

About 40 schoolchildren, veterans, staff from Foodstuffs and Z Energy, and New Zealand Defence Force personnel packed hundreds of Christmas treats this morning for NZDF personnel serving overseas. Photo: New Zealand Defence Force

About 50 people gathered at a community hall across the road from Trentham Military Camp to pack the boxes with Christmas goodies, that will be dispatched all over the world to places including the Middle East, South Sudan and the South Pacific.

Joint Forces welfare coordinator Lynne Smith said it was a tradition dating back 76 years to World War Two.

"It's just a little reminder of home and just a reminder that they're all in our thoughts at Christmas time."

Joint forces deputy commander Air Commander Kevin McEvoy was working shoulder to shoulder with the troops, adding chocolate puddings to the boxes.

He said he had appreciated the care packages when he was in the field.

"I remember one that was an Easter parcel, full of chocolate.

"There's nothing quite like a pineapple lump on a day when you're feeling a bit bereft of family, friends, and things are pretty tough.

"It's nice for the troops to know we're thinking of them on Christmas Day."

The Christmas packages this year include Marmite, liquorice, Anzac biscuits and ingredients for onion dip - Kiwi favourites that are hard to buy in many countries.

About 40 schoolchildren, veterans, staff from Foodstuffs and Z Energy, and New Zealand Defence Force personnel packed hundreds of Christmas treats this morning for NZDF personnel serving overseas.

Photo: New Zealand Defence Force

Each parcel also included Christmas cards designed and written by students from Mount Cook School in Wellington and Collingwood Area School in Golden Bay.

Le'aniva So'o, 11, is a staunch admirer of the work the armed forces do.

"I think it's especially important that we send them these cards and they know that we appreciate their work," she said.

Alyssa Ta, 12, was a veteran of the present wrapping campaign and wore an official Air Force shirt to prove it.

"Two years ago I made a card for the person overseas and she was from the Air Force, and a year later she gave me a visit."

RSA president BJ Clark served 21 years in the army and was in Antarctica for Christmas in 1986.

"I think there was a can of Leopard Beer, some tuatua soup, there were only about eight or nine items ... but even that we appreciated, knowing someone was thinking about us at Christmas."

Foodstuffs and Z Energy provided more than $10,000 worth of goods for this year's Christmas packages.

About 40 schoolchildren, veterans, staff from Foodstuffs and Z Energy, and New Zealand Defence Force personnel packed hundreds of Christmas treats this morning for NZDF personnel serving overseas.

About 40 schoolchildren, veterans, staff from Foodstuffs and Z Energy, and New Zealand Defence Force personnel packed hundreds of Christmas treats this morning for NZDF personnel serving overseas. Photo: New Zealand Defence Force

Get the new RNZ app

for ad-free news and current affairs