Families pay tribute to NZ soldiers

By Paul Harper

(L to R) Corporal Luke Tamatea (31), Lance Corporal Jacinda Baker (26) and Private Richard Harris (21), all killed in an IED explosion in Afghanistan. Photo / NZDF
(L to R) Corporal Luke Tamatea (31), Lance Corporal Jacinda Baker (26) and Private Richard Harris (21), all killed in an IED explosion in Afghanistan. Photo / NZDF

The families of three Kiwi soldiers who were killed in Afghanistan on Sunday have paid tribute to their loved ones.

The New Zealand Defence Force has released statements on behalf of the families of Corporal Luke Douglas Tamatea, 31, Lance Corporal Jacinda Baker, 26, and Private Richard Lee Harris, 21, who were killed instantly when a roadside bomb destroyed their Humvee in Northeast Bamiyan Province.

Corporal Luke Douglas Tamatea's family "immensely proud"

The Tamatea family said there is "no statement that could describe how saddened we are by the passing of Luke".

"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 around.

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."

Lance Corporal Jacinda Baker was "full of spirit", "fearless"

Lance Corporal Baker's family said she will 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.

"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."

Her family said 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".

"We know that she is in an amazing place with her Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ, however, we will miss her more than she ever will know. She leaves behind a hole in our family that can never be filled."

Private Richard Lee Harris was "laid back, quiet, fun loving, mischievous"

The family of Private Richard Harris, of Ngapuhi and Ngati Maru, said he was their "pride and joy".

"He was such a good boy who loved his whanau dearly and loved life," the Harris family wrote.

"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.

The family said Private Harris' tangi will Piki Te Aroha Marae, Rahiri, Hokianga and he will be laid to rest beside his father, Harry Harris, in the Hutoia Urupa, Rahiri Settlement.

- Herald Online

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