Big crowd farewells Cpl Tamatea

By Gary Hamilton-Irvine

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The partner of Te Teko's fallen soldier Luke Tamatea said her soulmate always joked about going out in a blaze of glory.

Hundreds of friends and family, with 150 New Zealand Defence Force representatives, gathered at Hahuru Marae to honour Corporal Tamatea, 31, at his funeral yesterday.

He was killed in Afghanistan with two other New Zealand soldiers on August 19, when a Humvee they were in was hit by a huge roadside bomb.

Just before 11am, the mourners gathered at the entrance to the marae, which is looked upon by Corporal Tamatea's ancestral mountain, Putauaki (Mt Edgecumbe).

His partner, Sarch Erb, who lives in Hamilton, addressed mourners saying her soul mate had died doing what he loved.

"Tama wouldn't have wanted it any other way. He would have been gutted if he had of died of cancer or in a car crash.

He always joked about going out in a blaze of glory. But I never thought it would happen."

As she fought back tears, she talked about her fond memories they shared. "He was my best friend, my rock, my soul mate.

"I will always cherish the memories we had together. Thankfully, I have plenty of photos and videos of our time together."




She said she had spoken to him earlier this month and he had told her he'd be coming home soon.

"He reassured his family, reassured us, reassured me and reassured his nana, that he'd be all right, he'd be fine and that he would be coming home any time now. He has come home to us now forever."

She said his four young daughters would grow up in the knowledge that their father had achieved great things.

Corporal Tamatea's mother Lynne McSweeney spoke at the marae, with his four daughters, two sisters, brother and step father by her side.

The whole family were overcome by tears while she finished off the families' speeches and Mrs McSweeney urged her son's comrades and close friends to remain in the lives of his four daughters.

New Zealand Army spokesman, and personal friend Pani Houia said Corporal Tamatea had left a legacy in the New Zealand Army, where he had served since 2000.

"Your legacy will carry on in the stories we will tell of you, we will never forget you," he said.

He said Corporal Tamatea had served his country proudly and had grown from a young lad, who would always get in trouble, to a great leader.

During the funeral service, stories of Corporal Tamatea's history unfolded including his cheeky ability to help himself to his comrades' food.

Good friend Dylan Keepa, from Edgecumbe, said this tendency was in fact learnt long ago when he was told to help himself to the fridge or else starve when staying with his second family, the Keepas.

Corporal Tamatea is survived by his four girls: Kyla, 8, Kaytlen and Nikita, both 6, and Keira, 3.

His body was taken from Hahuru Marae to the Kawerau Cemetery on the same gun carrier that was used at the Burnham Military Camp on Saturday.

As the family followed the gun carrier along Valley Rd, towards the cemetery, they were met by Putauaki Primary School pupils who lined both sides of the street. Mrs McSweeney held her hand over her heart in appreciation as they drove by the pupils, who had waited for more than an hour.

Corporal Tamatea's casket was carried to its final resting place soon after and as they lowered him into the ground, his comrades broke out into a spirited haka.

His younger brother Hayden, in his full navy regalia, saluted and whispered some final words, while his mother Lynne sat beside her son's grave.

He was the first soldier to have a military-style funeral at Hahuru Marae since Tim Wesley during World War II.


- Bay of Plenty Times

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