All Blacks mark the Centenary of Armistice Day
Sunday November 11 marked the Centenary of the first Armistice Day – when the guns fell silent and conflict ceased after four years of brutal warfare that marked the First World War.
To mark the occasion, representatives from the All Blacks and the Royal New Zealand Returned and Services Association (RSA) met during September to discuss how recent conflicts are affecting the veterans of today and the shared experiences of representing New Zealand on the rugby field and on the battle field.
An important conversation
In the first of these conversations released, 106-Test All Blacks lock Sam Whitelock swapped stories with Mark Compain, a veteran of NZ Army campaigns in Afghanistan, East Timor and Bosnia.
Whitelock talked about his grandfather who was injured during his war-time experience and went on to play rugby for the All Black after the Second World War.
Compain is the National Support Services Manager for the RNZRSA but engaged with Whitelock as a fellow Kiwi who has represented New Zealand – in a different uniform – overseas.
“It was clear that Sam had a real heart for his Grandfather’s war service, and a sense of pride in representing New Zealand as an All Black, no different to mine as a New Zealand Soldier,” says Mark Compain.
In the second conversation, All Blacks Head Coach Steve Hansen chats with RSA National President BJ Clark over a beer about the impact of service on veterans and their families; on the needs of modern service men and women and on what it means to the All Blacks to wear the poppy on their jersey.
“Steve told me how his family understands service to New Zealand,” says Clark.
The two men also discussed the issue of “what happens after service” and the difficulties that both those who have served and All Blacks face when they leave their “team.” Service men and women and a retiring All Black both face a very different world when they are no longer directly part of that team environment and for some that is very difficult.
The final conversation is between NZ Army veteran Danny Nelson, who works alongside Mark Compain as a Senior Strategic Advisor in the RSA’s Support Services team, and All Blacks Manager – Leadership, Gilbert Enoka.
Their encounter delves deeply into what it was like for Nelson to return home to civilian life having experienced the harsh realities of serving in war zones abroad.