Young soldier 'privileged' to attend Gallipoli

Private Christian Hohepa at rehearsals for the Gallipoli Dawn Service. (Supplied)
Private Christian Hohepa at rehearsals for the Gallipoli Dawn Service. (Supplied)

A young New Zealand soldier in Gallipoli for ANZAC commemorations says he feels privileged to have been selected.

Private Christian Hohepa, 21, was chosen to attend the commemorations as part of the New Zealand Defence Force's Gallipoli contingent.

He says he was overwhelmed at being selected as part of the 33-strong contingent.

"I was really surprised, and so humbled. There was a lot of talent at the selection wānanga and to be chosen was a very proud moment for me, not just for myself but for the fact that I get the privilege of walking the same grounds as the brave soldiers who died here to protect our future."

The contingent has entered the final stages of rehearsing the various roles they will play at the two Anzac Day services to be held on the Gallipoli peninsula in Turkey.

The trip is the first out of New Zealand for Mr Hohepa, who was born in Ruatōria on the East Cape. 

He says he always wanted to be a soldier and joined the defence force because it offered opportunity and a solid career.

"Joining the Army was a childhood dream," says Mr Hohepa.

"There's just so much opportunity, especially for rural people who might not have the range of experiences you get in the cities. You have experiences and learn in ways that you never would anywhere else."

Mr Hohepa isn't the first of his family to serve in the Army - his grandfather, John Grace, was a member of the famous Māori Battalion in World War II.

The Māori Contingent which served at Gallipoli was the forerunner of the Battalion.

Mr Hohepa is currently an apprentice armourer in the Army, learning to fix and maintain weapons.

Outside the workshop, he's into physical training and enjoys a variety of sports.

He has also taken on the study of mau rākau (traditional weapons skills) through the NZDF.

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