War heroes unite

Kalo Matawaqa and Roko Vucago 39 years later after serving under the first Battalion in 1979 for the Republic of the Finished Military Forces in Lebanon uring the Remembrance Day service at the National War Memorial site in Nasese, Suva yesterday. Picture VILIMAINA NAQELEVUKI

ON July 1979, three soldiers from the Republic of Fiji Military Forces who served under the First Battalion received UN medals from the former president Ratu Epeli Nailatikau in Lebanon.

Thirty-nine years later, Kalo Matawaqa, Kitione Namakadre and Roko Vucago now in their mid-60s, reunited at the Remembrance Day service held at the National War Memorial site in Nasese, Suva yesterday.

In an interview with this newspaper, Mr Matawaqa, who travelled all the way from Vuna, Taveuni to attend the service, said he knew he had to make the trip to Suva just so he could finally meet his two counterparts again.

“I was 25 years old when I first went to Lebanon. Our commanding officer then was Ratu Epeli Nailatikau. I was so excited to attend today’s (yesterday) service because I finally get to see them and reminisce our time together while serving in Lebanon,” he said.

An emotional Mr Namakadre said he remembered fondly when they were attacked once while on duty. “When we first went, we didn’t know much about death,” he said.

“It was not easy. I can still remember now that those were some of the hardest times when we were attacked, we were told not to fight back so how then should we defend ourselves?”

Mr Vucago said he was thankful to be alive and had the chance to meet his two closest friends. Mr Matawaqa said looking back now, they were all thankful to be alive.

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