Eulogy with comedy

August 29, 2012 § Leave a comment

Stumbled on a video today of the memorial service for the three New Zealand soldiers killed in Afghanistan recently. The words – and delivery – of one of the speakers blew me away.

Major Craig Wilson was the commanding officer of all five Kiwi soldiers killed in Afghanistan just this month. A gut wrenching toll for a small nation fighting someone else’s war. Wilson, his right arm in a sling, himself shot in the shoulder in a fatal attack, found words with which to decorate the three killed in action.

He does an amazing job. I can only hope to imagine what kind of leadership talent it takes to introduce comedy into eulogy, to instinctively balance grief, sincerity and personality, to control the timing when the situation is out of control, but he utterly nails it.

Watch this video between 1:00 and 3:20. I’ve typed out some of his words below, so I could admire them again.

On Private Richard Harris:

…Richard was one of the young ‘purebreds’, as we call them…he was an excellent machine gunner. Just how dedicated he was to fulfilling this role was demonstrated by his actions when the forward patrol base at Do Abi was attacked at night. He sprang to his post without pausing to get fully dressed and there he was, pouring fire back at the enemy with his beloved machine gun, dressed in his body armour, his helmet…and his undies…

On Lance Corporal Jacinda Baker:

…Jacinda, you were like the mother hen. Apparently, during the same Do Abi contact, she woke everyone up and spent about the next five minutes after the initial rounds yelling at all the boys to make sure they put their pants on – obviously Richard didn’t get that message…

On Corporal Luke Tamatea:

…While the rest of us were photographed dragging our tired carcasses over the Southern Alps, Tama somehow managed to ‘model’ his way across, looking like Derek Zoolander. Apparently, mate, you stayed true to form when the Do Abi contact happened. Apparently, unlike Richard, you started fully dressed and then slowly managed to strip off your kit throughout the contact so you could flex those muscles…

His words were beautiful, stirring and confidently funny. I’m in awe of public speakers like this.

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