War hero Willie Apiata appointed to special role in New Zealand Defence Force first

  • 22/05/2024

Kiwi war hero Willie Apiata has been appointed to a special new role with the New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF), as well as a promotion in rank. 

Apiata's appointment as a Special Representative to the NZDF and promotion to Honorary Warrant Officer Class One (WO1) on Wednesday was carried out in front of family and colleagues at Papakura Military Camp. 

Apiata - New Zealand's only living recipient of the Victoria Cross (VC) - was presented the honour by outgoing Chief of Defence Force Air Marshal Kevin Short. 

The appointment makes him the first person appointed to the position of Special Representative. The position enables the NZDF to provide enduring support and care to Apiata and any future recipients of the Victoria Cross - the highest gallantry honour which can be awarded to members of the NZDF. 

"It is a privilege to be appointed to this new role," Apiata said in a statement. 

"As a recipient of the VC, I represent the NZDF every day and this appointment formally recognises that relationship. 

"It is a great honour to be awarded the Victoria Cross and it comes with much pressure on the recipient. This sets a path not just for me, but for those who might be awarded the VC in the future." 

He received the VC in 2007 for bravery under fire while serving in Afghanistan in 2004, where he rescued a wounded comrade during a night attack on his SAS patrol. 

In 2008, he donated his VC to the NZSAS Trust so that the medal would be protected for future generations. 

"Promotion to Honorary Warrant Officer rank is a first for the NZDF and this is a reflection of the mark of the man. He is a humble Kiwi, who everyday lives the values of the Defence Force," said Chief of Army Major General John Boswell. 

"He will pass on his knowledge and experience to our new recruits and to our new leaders as a coach and mentor, to help create a better culture and a better ethos for the NZDF."