The Bay of Plenty solider killed in a bomb blast along with two other Kiwi soliders in Afghanistan at the weekend is likely to be farewelled in a memorial service on Saturday.
Former Edgecumbe College student Corporal Luke Tamatea, 31, along with Lance Corporal Jacinda Baker, 26, and Private Richard Harris, 21, were killed when their Humvee hit a bomb in the north east region of Baymain Province on August 19.
Corporal Luke Tamatea, 31, from the Bay of Plenty town of Te Teko was killed in a bomb blast in Afghanistan.
The three will be farewelled in a ramp ceremony at Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan this evening before their bodies are returned to New Zealand via Australia.
They are expected to arrive in Christchurch on Thursday.
Today the family of the Te Teko soldier released this statement about the soldier’s death.
“This is a difficult time for our family, Luke’s friends and his brothers in the Battalion.
“Luke took his job in the army extremely seriously and was very proud of his service. When he went to Banda Aceh in response to the tsunami, he really wanted to be on the first flight in as this meant he could make the most difference in people’s lives.”
“The Army provided Luke with so many opportunities and it really changed his life. He was a natural leader and was able to use his skills and experience helping others.”
“We are immensely proud of what Luke has achieved in 31 short years. Luke was a consummate professional as a soldier as his accomplishments show, but his proudest achievement is in his family he is leaving behind who will miss him most, particularly his four beautiful daughters who will remain his legacy, says Luke’s family.”
“The loss of Luke; the father, son, grandson, partner, brother, nephew, cousin and friend is difficult for us and our wider friends and family. For this reason we ask that you respect our privacy and allow us time to grieve.”
LCPL Baker is the first female New Zealand solider to be killed in combat in Afghanistan.
Jacinda’s family say she was and will always be remembered as an amazing daughter, partner, sister, granddaughter, great granddaughter, cousin, niece, friend and soldier in the New Zealand Army.
“We are still coming to grips with what has happened and words cannot express what we are feeling. We feel forever blessed to have known her in her short 26 years. She was only nine days away from her 27th birthday on August 28th.”
“Jacinda was a girl full of spirit, always ready for her next adventure. She was fearless and would give anything a go,” says Jacinda’s family.
“Jacinda was loyal and our rock. She was the one to turn to if you needed someone calm, with practical help to get you through whatever it was you were going through.”
“Jacinda was professional. She was proud to be a medic in the New Zealand Army, proud of the work she carried out, and we in turn were and are so incredibly proud of her.”
“She leaves behind a hole in our family that can never be filled. We realise that we are not alone in this – there are two other families also grieving with the loss of their loved ones – and all of our sincere best wishes and condolences go to those families,” says Jacinda’s family.
PTE Richard Lee Harris’ Ngapuhi/Ngati Maru family say he was their pride and joy.
“He was such a good boy who loved his whanau dearly and loved life.
“Rich’ was a laid back, quiet, fun loving, mischievous guy who would light up the room with his smile. He had a passion for rugby, playing junior boys for Patumahoe, then the First XV for three years while at Pukekohe high school. In his free time he liked chilling with the bros.
“Richard, the youngest son of Sandra and the late Harry Harris, grew and matured into a really cool young man who we are all so proud of. He travelled back to his kainga Hokianga in April this year prior to being deployed to Afghanistan and spent time with his extended whanau. Richard loved the Army and was looking forward to going to Afghanistan.”
Richard’s tangi will be held at Piki Te Aroha Marae, Rahiri, Hokianga and he will be laid to rest beside his father, the late Harry Harris in the Hutoia Urupa, Rahiri Settlement.