The bodies of three New Zealand soldiers including a Bay of Plenty corporal killed in Afghanistan are expected to arrive back in the country tomorrow.
Members of the NZ Provincial Reconstruction Team (NZPRT) attended the ramp ceremony for Corporal Luke Tamatea, Lance Corporal Jacinda Baker and Private Richard Harris at Bagram Air Base overnight.
The three caskets are carried to the Royal Australian Air Force C-130 by members of the NZ Provincial Reconstruction Team.
The three soldiers were killed when their Humvee hit a bomb in the north east region of Baymain Province on August 19.
A Royal New Zealand Air Force C-130 Hercules, with escorts from 2nd/1st Battalion Royal New Zealand Infantry Regiment, 1st Battalion Royal New Zealand Infantry Regiment, and 2nd Health Support Battalion, will meet an Australian Defence Force A-340 in Australia to bring CPL Tamatea, LCPL Baker and PTE Harris home to New Zealand.
A final ramp ceremony will be held in Christchurch tomorrow. Timings are still to be advised as they may be subject to change.
Senior military advisor to the NZPRT, Lieutenant Colonel Pete Hall says Luke, Jacinda and Richard epitomised the values that New Zealander’s hold dearest and always hope to live up to - those of courage, commitment, comradeship and integrity.
“They were killed whilst undertaking a righteous and honourable endeavour assisting the people of Afghanistan to build a better place for the future – commitment,” says Pete.
“They deployed to a country in turmoil knowing that their lives would be at risk, but still they came with courage,” he says.
“They survived the Battle of Baghak where they fought honourably and bravely alongside their mates, tended the wounds of those that required care and arranged for their safe evacuation.”
“They set the example for our Afghan partners on how to perform their duties with integrity in a professional and honest way and by their example helped to develop their skills.”
“Luke, Jacinda and Richard’s lives were cut short by a cowardly act and I take some solace in the fact that they died instantly with no pain.”
“I think of their families every day, I am heartbroken for their loss and can offer little comfort other than to assure them that in honour of their memory, we the members of CRIB 20 will complete our task applying the values that Luke, Jacinda and Richard lived by.”
“I am a better man for having known them.”