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An epitome is lost

Avinesh Gopal
Sunday, March 31, 2013

KAUATA Vamarasi Marafono alias Fred was the epitome of the Fijian motto Rerevaka na Kalou ka doka na Tui (Fear God and honour the King).

Hailing from Rotuma, Mr Marafono's faith in the Almighty God was uncomplicated, his former colleagues said.

The 72-year-old British 22 Special Air Service regiment soldier died peacefully in his sleep at his home in the United Kingdom on Thursday.

Mr Marafono, who served with the elite unit from 1960 to 1980, was a close colleague of SAS heroes Sergeant Talaiasi Labalaba, Sekonaia Takavesi, Jim Vakatali and Ilisoni Ligairi.

His death was confirmed to this newspaper by his former colleague Dr Ken Hedges from Ontario in Canada and his family members in Fiji.

Dr Hedges served with Mr Marafono and the other four Fijian soldiers in 22 SAS from 1964 to 1967 in his capacity as Regimental Medical Officer.

He was deployed with them in Borneo and South Arabia, which is now known as Yemen.

"In my mind, Fred was the epitome of the Fijian motto," said Dr Hedges.

"His dedication to the profession of arms was outstanding. His willingness to serve was an example to us all.

"His mistakes were only human and mitigated by his strong sense of accountability.

"Beneath the accumulated scars of a lifetime of military service lay a gentle disposition, a kindness and an understanding that the needs of his neighbour defined the co-ordinates of his neighbourhood."

Dr Hedges said there could be a sizeable turnout for the legendary Fijian warrior's funeral.

He said "Fred" served the call of his sovereign so faithfully and with good account.

The doctor said Fred was a great warrior in the finest tradition of military service so often exemplified by Fijian members of the armed forces.

Mr Marafono had co-authored the book From SAS to Blood Diamond Wars with Hamish Ross.

His nephew and namesake described him as a humble person, and someone who would only talk about something if he was asked about it. Funeral arrangements for the fallen soldier are yet to be finalised.





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