The Governor-General has presented the RSA’s prestigious Anzac of the Year Award to New Zealand’s youngest-ever recipients - two cousins who saved a man from drowning.
Will White and Sergio Schuler, both aged 12, have been honoured for their courage and selfless commitment in the rescue of 32-year-old Vincent Shao at Bowentown Beach in Waihi last December.
When Mr Shao lost his footing and became caught in a rip, the boys used their surf lifesaving training, teamwork and sheer bravery to navigate the crisis, showing maturity beyond their years and ultimately risking their own safety to ensure his survival, a statement said.
Lt Gen The Rt Hon Sir Jerry Mateparae presented the award at the Waihi Beach Memorial RSA, with the boys’ family and friends, school representatives, members of the Waihi surf lifesaving club, Police and the local RSA present.
“Will and Sergio exemplify how the Anzac spirit, which was showcased nearly a century ago at Gallipoli, is still alive and strong in even our youngest New Zealanders,” Sir Jerry said in his speech notes.
“These boys embody the Anzac spirit of camaraderie, compassion, courage and commitment in looking after their mates.”
RSA National President Don McIver congratulated the boys, saying their ability to keep calm in a crisis was a critical factor in ensuring Mr Shao made it ashore alive.
“It’s inspiring to see such a display of compassion and courage in such young people. It is our great pleasure to honour Will and Sergio’s bravery with this Award. Their families and their community should be very proud of them,” Mr McIver said.
The Anzac of the Year Award was established in 2010 and last year was awarded to members of the Student Volunteer Army for their selfless and compassionate service to the city of Christchurch following the 2010 and 2011 earthquakes.
Previous recipients of the Award have been ex-military personnel Brigadier (Retd) Dr Brian McMahon in 2011 and the late Lt Col (Retd) John Masters ONZM MC JP in 2010.
Nominations for the award were made by the New Zealand public with the final recipients decided by a panel.
Established in 2010 by the Royal New Zealand RSA, the Anzac of the Year Award recognises the spirit of Anzac evident in New Zealanders today.
It is awarded for a single act or for significant service to New Zealanders or the international community.
The spirit of Anzac is embodied in the 1915 story of New Zealand Gallipoli hero Private Richard Henderson and the donkey where the qualities of comradeship, compassion, courage and commitment were exemplified in his service bringing in wounded men under heavy fire, with total disregard for his own life.