Corporal Grant a peacekeeper, in and out of uniform

GUARD OF HONOUR: New Zealand and Australian soldiers provide a ramp ceremony for NZ SAS commando Corporal Doug Grant, who was killed in Afghanistan last Friday.
NZDF
GUARD OF HONOUR: New Zealand and Australian soldiers provide a ramp ceremony for NZ SAS commando Corporal Doug Grant, who was killed in Afghanistan last Friday.

New Zealand and Australian soldiers have marked the repatriation of SAS commando Doug Grant, who was killed in Afghanistan on Friday.

Defence Force staff from both countries provided a ceremony at the ramp of an Australian Hercules as his coffin was carried on to the plane to be flown back to New Zealand.

A statement from the New Zealand Defence Force thanked their Australian counterparts for helping with "the repatriation of our fallen comrade".

TINA GRANT: Kiwi corporal Doug Grant's wife.
TINA GRANT: Kiwi corporal Doug Grant's wife.

Those who knew Grant said he was a tough and gentle "real bloke" who rode against family violence.

Grant, who was shot dead by Taleban insurgents in Afghanistan, was a member of the Patriots Defence Forces Motorcycle Club, and was the road captain in the 2010 White Ribbon Ride to end violence against women.

The 41-year-old from Linton Military Camp, known to those close to him as "Dougie", died on Friday in a helicopter on the way to a military hospital after an attack at the British Council diplomatic offices in Kabul.

ULTIMATE SACRIFICE: Corporal Doug Grant was a member of the Patriots Defence Forces Motorcycle Club (Patriots).
SUPPLIED
ULTIMATE SACRIFICE: Corporal Doug Grant was a member of the Patriots Defence Forces Motorcycle Club (Patriots).

Grant believed his mission as a peace keeper did not stop when he was in "civvies'', White Ribbon campaign manager Rob McCann said.

"He was passionate about ending violence against women and children, and his physical absence on the White Ribbon Ride this November will be a huge loss, but he will always be in our memories.

"[Grant] served his country, both in and out of the uniform".

FALLEN SOLDIER: Corporal Doug Grant.
FALLEN SOLDIER: Corporal Doug Grant.

As news of the soldier's death filtered around the country, many in Tokomaru – about 18 kilometres southwest of Palmerston North – were still not aware an attack almost 14,000km away had claimed one of their own. Relatives and military staff were looking after Corporal Grant's family at his Tokomaru house yesterday.

He lived there with his wife Tina, an army sergeant, and their seven-year-old daughter and five-year-old son, who both attend St James Catholic School in Palmerston North.

Tributes from throughout the country have poured in for a "great soldier and amazing family man". The New Zealand flag at the Tokomaru RSA had been at half-mast since Saturday.

RSA president Barry Gledhill, who knows the family, said the community was shocked and devastated.

"It's very sad for anyone who loses their life serving their country. They do a good job for their country and when they pay that sacrifice it's always a tragedy. The community here is close, and they'll be giving all their support to the family."

Otaki MP Nathan Guy said he had passed his condolences to the family and was due to meet them today. He said Mrs Grant, an instructor at the Military Studies Institute, was coping reasonably well, but he could not begin to imagine what she was going through.

"Tina, I have a huge amount of sympathy for. Having a young family myself, I couldn't bear to think about the loss they are suffering."

Horowhenua District Mayor Brendan Duffy said it was a terrible loss for the family. "And it reminds us, no matter where we are in New Zealand, there are people in our communities serving our country as best they can, and yet many of us would not be aware of the sacrifices they are making."

Labour Party defence spokesman and Palmerston North MP Iain Lees-Galloway said his heart went out to Corporal Grant's family. "Particularly his wife and children – they have really paid the price for his commitment to New Zealand's security and defence force."

St James Catholic School board chairman Glenn Maskill said the school had offered its support to the family in any way it could.

"It's a huge loss for us, both mum and dad were wonderful members of our school community and were involved in activities to support their children," he said. "We are praying for the family and that's really all we can do, but we will do anything we can to support them."

A statement released by Corporal Grant's family said he was a determined man who had wanted to be in the SAS since his school days.

"Doug had absolute faith in his friends and colleagues, and what he was doing in Afghanistan. The family is incredibly proud of Doug's achievements as a soldier and as a husband, father, brother, and son."

In Wellington yesterday, Defence Force chief Lieutenant General Rhys Jones released details of the events leading up to Corporal Grant's death.

International forces had received warnings there could be an attack on Friday, the 92nd anniversary of Afghanistan's independence from British rule. "Therefore most of the city, counter-terrorists as well as police and wider military were on standby for some action to occur. There was no warning of what the target was."

During the attack, the Afghanistan Crisis Response Unit had to focus on countering the terrorists, so the SAS troops were given the task of rescuing civilians from the building. Corporal Grant had gone to the balcony of a nearby building to get a better perspective of where the insurgents were when he was shot by a rifle or light machinegun. "It was probably a 7.6mm bullet."

The bullet went through the arm hole of his body armour, pierced his heart and exited through the other side of his body.

Corporal Grant had served 21 years in the Defence Force and had served with infantry and engineers units before joining the SAS. He had left the SAS and moved to Linton to spend more time with his family but had asked to return with the SAS to Afghanistan. He had served in East Timor twice, the former Yugoslavia once and was on his second tour of duty in Afghanistan.

General Jones said the Defence Force had made a commitment to support Corporal Grant's family in any way it could. Defence Minister Wayne Mapp has also offered his condolences to the family, and Prime Minister John Key visited them on Saturday.

Funeral details have not been confirmed but Corporal Grant's body will lie in state at Linton before a private service there.

MESSAGE FROM WHITE RIBBON

The White Ribbon Campaign and the Families Commission have offered their condolences to the family of SAS soldier Corporal Doug Grant following his death in Afghanistan.

Corporal Grant was a member of the Patriots Defence Forces Motorcycle Club, and was the road captain in the 2010 White Ribbon Ride to end violence against women.

White Ribbon campaign manager Rob McCann extended his respect and condolences to his family, comrades and fellow patriots.

"We acknowledge the time, energy and commitment Dougie put into supporting the White Ribbon kaupapa. He was a man of great mana, and will be sorely missed.''

"Men throughout New Zealand have been inspired by Doug and the other White Ribbon riders to stand up against violence toward women. This ongoing work will always be a part of his legacy," McCann said.

As a mark of respect while attending a White Ribbon Hui this weekend in Bream Bay, the Patriots took time out to assemble at the Whangerei Returned Services Association and pay their respects while the last post was played.

Patriot and ride spokesman Shane Henry said it was shattering to lose someone like Corporal Grant. "We wish him peace and will celebrate his life and contribution both overseas and at home''.

Like the other Patriots, Corporal Grant believed his mission as a peace keeper did not stop when he was in "civvies'', he said.

"He was passionate about ending violence against women and children, and his physical absence on the White Ribbon Ride this November will be a huge loss, but he will always be in our memories.

"When Dougie was on the White Ribbon Ride, he'd give away his bed each night so one of the other boys could get a good night's sleep. Turned out he preferred a one-man-tent and sleeping on the ground. Dougie was like that, tough and gentle, all at the same time.

"We hope the boys remember those qualities. A real bloke who was not afraid to stand up against family violence - who served his country, both in and out of the uniform,"  Henry said.

KIWI CASUALTIES IN AFGHANISTAN

Corporal Douglas Grant is the seventh New Zealand-born soldier to die in Afghanistan.

The others were:

Private Kirifi Mila, 27, died when the Humvee vehicle he was in rolled down a cliff in the Bamiyan province in February.

Wellington-born Private John Howard, 23, serving in Afghanistan with the British military, was killed by suspected friendly fire from a United States aircraft in December last year.

Feilding Lieutenant Tim O'Donnell, 28, was killed when his convoy was ambushed in Afghanistan in August last year.

Australian Army Corporal Mathew Hopkins, 21, of Christchurch, was shot dead in a firefight with insurgents near Kakarak in March last year.

Australian Special Air Service signaller Sean Patrick McCarthy, 25, formerly of Auckland, died when his vehicle hit a roadside bomb in 2008.

US Army Captain Matthew Ferrara, the 24-year-old nephew of Labour leader Phil Goff, was killed in Afghanistan in 2007.

Manawatu Standard