Te Hononga - Soldier's Tale

Submitted by rangifitzgerald on

Te hononga ō Tūmatauenga ō Vietnam: We are physically, 'socially' and spiritually a connection of the god of war of Vietnam.

Te Hokinga Mai (The Return)

Many years pass, but the memories do not fade. In 2008, I was inspired by whaea Yvonne Marshell (QSM) to learn the craft of korowai weaving. She taught me until she passed in 2010.

I decided to make my first kahu huruhuru (feather cloak) for the Vietnam veterans to share our story – not realising that this journey was going to take four and a half years to complete the kahu and another year for the tāniko pattern, which sits on the top of the cloak.

The feathers represent the people, places, feelings, and thoughts of this journey.

Story begins from bottom to the top.

The bottom row of feathers is goose feathers from Hawaii, Hawaiiki nui.

They are inside out so as not to touch the ground (We are not there [South Vietnam] long enough to call home - whaea Yvonne Marshell QSM).

Next come the spotty duck, they were used because of their misty grey look which reminded me of the kōkako a short flight manu, moves through our forest very stealthily known as the grey ghost.

The black of the pūkeko is there because they flew us out at night and returned us in the night (unseen).

The white in the middle at bottom are Australian gannet feathers.

We now have America (goose feathers), New Zealand (spotty duck), and Australia (gannet). We are now moving as one force.

As the grey ghosts sweep through the jungles of South Vietnam, we come to the blue line of the pūkeko (te kikorangi i te pō) – the bright light to the blue light.

Sitting above that line of pūkeko is the black and white spotted feather of the guinea foul – this is New Zealand and Australia going into the Tet offensive.

The paradise duck, which was a dark moment for all soldiers of South Vietnam – the brown in the paradise duck represents Papatūānuku (Mother Earth) – eat dirt, survive.

As time moves over many years we are told we are coming home, the colour of the feathers become lighter grey as we look towards our homeland, we can see the blue skies represented by the pūkeko feathers.

The next row of feathers is albatross and kākā feathers.

The albatross is formed like a teardrop, the kākā feathers in their bright orange acknowledge that we are coming home with baggage – Agent Orange.

The brown duck dotted here and there represents Papatūānuku – we can now smell home.

The next row is over four hundred albatross feathers – Aotearoa, Land of the Long White Cloud.

Sitting above the clouds of Aotearoa, are thirty-seven Kiwi feathers honouring our fallen.

There is also four other kiwi feathers under our fallen to remind us of our loved ones – mother, father, boy, girl.

They are surrounded by the grey ghosts whom are the guard of honour.

The top row of albatross feathers are our family – our love, shared heartaches, and on-going health issues. Each feather is interlocked – embracing, showing our love and support for one another, we are one family.

Tāniko Pattern Design

Firstly, you will see the five medal ribbons worn by Vietnam veterans and a tamatoa (warrior) sentry.

Then you will see the Corps belt worn by 161 Battery. Next, you see some of the Corps belts of other units in South Vietnam.

  • Royal New Zealand Armoured Corps (RNZAC)
  • Corps of Royal New Zealand Engineers (RNZE)
  • Royal New Zealand Corps of Signals (RNZSigs)
  • Royal New Zealand Army Ordnance Corps (RNZAOC)
  • Royal New Zealand Army Service Corps (RNZASC)
  • Royal New Zealand Electrical and Mechanical Engineers (RNZEME)
  • Royal New Zealand Army Medical Corps (RNZAMC)
  • Royal New Zealand Chaplains Department (RNZChD)
  • Royal New Zealand Provost Corps (RNZ Pro)
  • Royal New Zealand Nursing Corps (RNZNC)

There were other units in South Vietnam under 1st Australian Task Force.

There are two helicopters call sign ALBATROSS. The SAS are incorporated into one of the "O"

Te hononga ō Tūmatauenga ō Vietnam we are physically, socially, and spiritually a connection of the god of war of Vietnam.

Below that in the tāniko pattern, you will see Te Hokinga Mai (The Return).

Next, is the Royal New Zealand Infantry Regiment Corps belt.

The last pattern is a waka (boat). The waka represents whakanoa, to lift or nullify tapu or to return to a normal state.

The poppies are given their own identity at front, with the Royal New Zealand Navy, New Zealand Army, and Royal New Zealand Air force at the rear.

Above the poppies sits the sentry.

The black-white and purple-white pattern around the top and bottom edges represents religion, and spiritual guides – Catholic, Anglican, and Ratana etc.

Titiro mai rā ki a mātou
Tēnei mātou ō tamariki

Oh Lord, look at us
This is us, your children

Back of Te Hononga

Inside the kahu huruhuru, you will see New Zealand’s Coat of Arms and the flags of New Zealand, Australia, United States and South Vietnam. All flags are flying at half-mast.

Then you will see an army blanket (supplied by Bombardier Saul Bishara, 161 Battery). On the blanket are just some of the shoulder flashes worn at that time. There is room to add more.

At the bottom is the Royal New Zealand Navy (right), New Zealand Army (middle), and Royal New Zealand Air force (left).

Underneath them hangs huka huka (frills of a garment) in the black and white colour of the New Zealand Overseas Service Ribbon. This is in honour of all those that have gone before us.

Back to the top of the cloak, you will see a red and grey lanyard worn by Sister Margaret Jupp (nee Torrey). On her battledress is South Vietnam 67/68 in honour of all our women who served, tying us together as one.

To the children of the Vietnam Veteran this is one of many true tales of your Mum or Dad.

Ka iri tōku ringa                          
ki tōna pakihiwi                           
ā mana āhau                             
e arataki i roto i te pōuri

I rest my hand
on his shoulders
and he leads me
through the dark



Rangi Fitzgerald

How to cite this page: ' Te Hononga - Soldier's Tale ', URL: https://vietnamwar.govt.nz/memory/te-hononga-soldiers-tale, (Ministry for Culture and Heritage), updated 30-Sep-2022