Final salute for NZ soldiers killed in Afghanistan
Hundreds of mourners have gathered at a Christchurch military base to farewell two New Zealand soldiers killed in Afghanistan.
Lance Corporal Pralli Durrer, of Christchurch, and Lance Corporal Rory Malone, of Auckland, were killed when their patrols went to the aid of Afghan police in the Bamiyan province last Saturday.
Hundreds of soldiers and civilians have packed the gymnasium at Christchurch's Burnham Military Camp for a military service for the pair this afternoon.
The crowd stood in silence as Durrer and Malone's flag-draped caskets were carried into the gymnasium by their fellow soldiers and placed into position.
Ahead of the service the commanding officers paid tribute to their men.
Governor-General Sir Jerry Mateparae, Deputy Prime Minister Bill English and Labour leader David Shearer are among the dignitaries who are attending the farewell.
After the hymn Amazing Grace, Mateparae spoke "with a heavy heart" about the loss of the two men.
"As Governor-General, I stand before you on behalf of all New Zealanders who share in the immense grief that comes with losing two of our own."
Mateparae said families of the pair had "their greatest fears realised", but could be proud of their service for the country. "Pralli and Rory were men that you can be immensely proud of."
Speaking ahead of the service, the commanding officers of the two men said they would be missed by their colleagues.
Durrer's commanding officer, Lieutenant Colonel James Kaio, said he would be remembered as a "staunch" and mischievous friend who was quick to defend those he cared about.
"He was one of those guys who would never back down ... whenever someone was hassling one of his mates, the guy would get a shove out of the way and he'd leap in to defend them."
Malone's commanding officer, Lieutenant Colonel Stefan Michie, said the 26-year-old was a "real wit" who entertained his fellow soldiers with his antics.
"He didn't worry at all about ringing up on the phone and impersonating a senior officer, or sending people official-looking documents saying that their pay had been recalled."
Malone was also known for his uncompromising standards, and had topped his recruit course and basic training.
Michie said soldiers were "hurting bad" at the loss of the pair, but knew they had to refocus on their work.
"We're privileged to have this job to do, so we've got to get on with it."
- © Fairfax NZ News
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