Commentators have both supported and condemned Prime Minister John Key's decision to watch his son play baseball in the United States instead of attending services today for two soldiers killed in Afghanistan.

Mr Key has spoken to the families of Lance Corporals Pralli Durrer and Rory Malone to explain why he has stuck with plans to watch son Max play baseball for New Zealand in the Senior League World Series in Bangor, Maine.

The soldiers were killed last Saturday in Bamiyan. Their bodies arrived home on Thursday night.

"I've got to let somebody down, but my son makes huge sacrifices for me and my job and, in the final analysis, I've just decided it's probably the right thing to do - to go and support him," Mr Key said this week.


A spokesman for Labour leader David Shearer reaffirmed he had nothing to say about Mr Key's call, while Returned and Services Association national president Don McIver also chose not to comment.

Greens co-leader Metiria Turei said she could understand the PM's decision. "I think John Key has made the best decision he can for his family and children and I don't underestimate the difficulties he had in making that particular decision."

Political commentator Bryce Edwards called the decision "gutsy", saying Mr Key had "followed his heart rather than his head", but believed it could be slightly damaging for him.

"I found it refreshing in a sense that he didn't feel straitjacketed by the need to go along with what's expected of being the Prime Minister."

Blogger David Farrar credited Mr Shearer for not taking a stance, writing that "many Opposition Leaders would have used this tragedy to take a cheap swipe".

"By meeting the families of the dead soldiers, Key had paid his respects in a more direct and personal way than attendance at the funeral.

"And there are other ministers who can attend - but being a father is not something you can delegate."

Commentator Chris Trotter, who suspected the country was divided on the issue, said Mr Key was a "natural kind of a guy" and would have made a straightforward decision to go ahead with his plans. "I don't think he'll lose a hell of a lot of sleep over it."


Political blogger Paul Buchanan was more scathing, slamming the decision as "a disgrace of the first order. This is a spit in the face of the [NZ Defence Force]. It is a dishonour to the fallen soldiers," he wrote on his Kiwipolitico blog site.

New Zealanders reacting on social media sites and chat forums had mixed views, some decrying the call as "disgusting" and "despicable".

Others backed Mr Key. One wrote on the TVNZ website: "Great to see we have a Prime Minister that is father first and foremost. That is his most important job in life and he obviously takes it seriously."

Deputy Prime Minister Bill English will attend this afternoon's ceremony at Burnham Military Camp in Mr Key's place.