Final salute for Kiwi soldiers
Two of New Zealand's fallen soldiers have left their military colleagues for the last time.
Lance Corporal Pralli Durrer and Lance Corporal Rory Malone have been farewelled at a military service at Christchurch's Burnham Military Camp this afternoon.
Durrer, of Christchurch, and Malone, of Auckland, were killed when their patrols went to the aid of police in Afghanistan's Bamiyan province last Saturday.
After a moving service, the flag-draped coffins of Durrer and Malone were marched out of the camp gymnasium and maneuvered onto two military vehicles to be driven to the gates of the camp.
Three bursts of ceremonial gunfire cut through the crisp air, while a steady drum beat kept the soldiers in pace as they marched behind their fallen colleagues.
A piper started to play on top of a memorial cairn outside the grounds, while soldiers shook the ground with two haka as Durrer and Malone's coffins were moved from the military vehicles into private hearses.
Earlier, mourners paid tribute to the two young men.
Governor-General Sir Jerry Mateparae, a former soldier, said the pair's families had 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."
Mateparae said Durrer and Malone had shown "great courage, commitment, comradeship and integrity", and deserved the gratitude of the nation.
Defence Minister Jonathan Coleman said he had an "overwhelming sense of sadness" at the loss of Durrer and Malone.
"Our nation has lost two brave young men who have ultimately sacrificed their lives in the service of others."
Coleman said their families could find comfort in knowing that they had "known the all-too-rare passion of doing something they loved", while they had also improved the lives of the civilians they were responsible for in Afghanistan.
"Life is better in Bamiyan because of the brave efforts of people like Pralli Durrer and Rory Malone."
Durrer's commanding officer, Lieutenant Colonel James Kaio, said the 26-year-old was a "quiet achiever" who quickly developed leadership skills.
"As he gained more and more experience, so did his abilities improve."
Durrer loved to have fun and was quick to stand up for those he cared about, Kaio said.
"Although he wasn't the biggest man, he had the heart of a lion."
A member of Durrer's family, Joe Durrer, said he was a loved family member who developed an interest in the military at a young age.
Joe Durrer said his family was sad but proud that he had given his life for his country.
"Pralli has died a hero: there is no greater sacrifice than in the line of service to your country."
Malone's commanding officer, Lieutenant Colonel Stefan Michie, said he was a "straight-shooter" who entertained his fellow soldiers with a keen sense of humour.
"He once impersonated a senior ranking officer and demanded an immediate check of the serial numbers of every vacuum cleaner in the barracks."
Malone's brother, Todd McBriar, often struggled for words as he paid tribute to his younger sibling.
"To me, he's my little bro, and he's my hero."
Malone said he and his wife had decided to name their new child Rory to pay tribute to the sacrifice he had made.
"Rory, we are so very proud of you. You have given us a sense of pride and purpose that will forever be held in our hearts and forever shine in our eyes when your name is mentioned."
Personal funeral services for Durrer and Malone will be held in Christchurch and Auckland next week.
- The Press