by Serah Aupong – EM TV News, Port Moresby
The three fallen soldiers of the First Royal Pacific Infantry Regiment were accorded full regimental honors as they were farewelled by their colleagues at the Taurama Barracks today.
The soldiers’ remains were returned to their families 19 years after their deaths were recorded during active duty at the height of the Bougainville conflict.
It was a sombre occasion as soldiers and the community at Taurama Barracks turned up to pay their respect to the three soldiers who were hailed as heroes.
Following regimental traditions, a parade was hosted in their honour.
The remains of the soldiers have returned to mainland PNG, one that is very different to when they left for active duty in 1996.
Nearly 20 years later, the Governor General, a Bougainvillean, welcomed home the three men.
They are heroes he said, because their last act was to broker peace.
The families of the three soldiers were present at the ceremony. Some were flown in while others live here is Port Moresby.
The parents of the late Private Jimmy Julah, were flown in from Wosera District in the East Sepik Province.
Late Jimmy was in his early 20s when he died. Being a soldier was his dream, and his motto was “live by the gun and die by the gun.” For his parents, receiving the remains of their first born came with mixed emotions.
While they were happy to see their son farewelled with full military honour, they were still heartbroken.
“Em yangpla tumas na em die..em ino marit, ino gat senis blo em,” his mother, Julie said after the funeral ceremony. (He was too young when he died. He wasn’t married and didn’t have any children yet.”)
For his father Moses, it wasn’t enough that he will be burying the bones of his son.
“Mi laik stret lo lukim pes blo pikinini blo mi tasol em i abrus, lewa blo mi buruk lo disla,” (I really wanted to see my sons face. The fact that I couldn’t breaks my heart.)
For the other families, this marks a time of closure for them. For the Late Corporal Marco Maino’s widow, Regina, the years have been hard since the death of her husband. 19 years after his death, their last born child, two weeks old when her dad left for Bougainville is a mother herself now with a young baby. Regina said her faith kept her strong all those years.
“In all these things I was patient, I knew he will come back one day,” she said of her wait for her husband’s return.
While her oldest son was old enough to have memories of his father, the two youngest were too young to remember his at all.
For the late Private Raymond Waia, his journey ends here as he will be laid to rest at the military cemetery in Taurama Barracks.
The other two, their journey home continues, as they will be flown back to their home provinces in Popondetta and East Sepik province.