Tour of Duty in Afghanistan honoured

By John Cousins


A memorial display honouring the mounting toll of New Zealand soldiers killed in Afghanistan was a special feature at last weekend's Tauranga Arms and Militaria Show.

The show, into its 13th year, continues to be a crowd pleaser drawing hundreds of people interested in weapons and military history.

The deaths of three soldier overnight and two earlier deaths on August 4 of Lance Corporals Pralli Durrer and Rory Malone by insurgents gave an added poignancy to the display put together by an ex-soldier who served in Afghanistan in 2006.

Asking only to be known as Andrew because the display featured some of his weapons, he feared what would happen to Bamyan province once the New Zealand Provincial Reconstruction team withdrew in 2013.

He said that during the whole time he served in Bamyan, he never once heard people refer to themselves as Afghani.

"It is a very tribally based society."

He was particularly fearful of what would happen to Bamyan's Hazara people who were an ethnic minority in Afghanistan.

They were descended from the Mongols, looked different to the dominant Pashtun tribe and were minority Shia Muslims.

He said atrocities against women who offended Afghanistan's moral codes were still common as were attempts by women to advance themselves in a society dominated by men.

He recalled one horrific incident when a group of girls who dared to enroll in a school were killed and their teacher beheaded.

Andrew's display also featured the current uniform worn by members of the reconstruction team, the SAS special forces uniform and the uniform worn by New Zealand police officers who trained Afghani police.

His weapons on display included a modified Australian-made SLR self-loading rife used by the New Zealand special forces, an American M4 assault rifle with an M203 grenade launcher used by the Western countries' special forces, and a Russian DSHK 12.7 calibre heavy machine.

The display's roll of honour also featured four people who held New Zealand passports but were killed serving in the armed forces of Australia, Britain and the USA - bringing the total number of New Zealanders killed in Afghanistan to 14 since 2007.

The other known deceased were Corporal Douglas Hughes, Lance Corporal Leon Smith, Corporal Doug Grant, Private Kirifi Mila, Lieutenant Tim O'Donnell, Private Jack Howard, Corporal Mathew Hopkins, Signaller Sean McCarthy and Captain Matthew Ferrara.

The show was in Greerton Hall.

- BAY OF PLENTY TIMES

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