Two Afghani interpreters who worked with the New Zealand Defence Force received medals for their service in a lively ceremony at Hastings City Art Gallery on Saturday night.
About 150 Afghani interpreters in total travelled to Hawke's Bay from throughout the country for the event, organised by the ICC Cricket World Cup and Hastings District Council on behalf of the New Zealand Army.
Cricket World Cup's New Zealand head Therese Walsh said having the contingent in Hawke's Bay would help drum up support for the national Afghanistan cricket team for yesterday's match against the Black Caps.
"There's this great Afghan community that has made New Zealand their home. There will be plenty of support for the Black Caps - we thought this was a cool way of getting support for the Afghan team. [The interpreters] are cricket mad."
In the ceremony Army chief Major General Dave Gawn presented the New Zealand Operational Service Medal and the New Zealand General Service Medal Afghanistan to Ajmal Ahmadi and Sayed Mohammed Ali Hussaini.
The men had worked with the army in Bamiyan, Afghanistan, and had since settled in New Zealand.
In 2010 Mr Ahmadi was wounded in the same ambush in which Kiwi soldier Lieutenant Tim O'Donnell was killed.
Major General Gawn said the medals represented an invaluable contribution to the army.
"It really does reflect the gratitude for the service all of our Afghan interpreters gave, not just to the defence force but to New Zealand."
Mr Hussaini was visibly emotional when he received his medals, saying: "It's a great pleasure and an honour for me. Thanks a lot to the people of New Zealand."
After the medals were received, the interpreters and their friends and families danced to traditional Afghani music while a crowd looked on and cheered.
Yesterday they watched their home country face off against the Black Caps at Napier's McLean Park.