Jacinda Baker was a fearless adventurer who left behind a hole that can never be filled, her family says.
The 26-year-old lance corporal was one of three Kiwi troops who died on Sunday when their Humvee struck a roadside bomb in the Afghanistan province of Bamiyan.
She was New Zealand's first female combat casualty since Vietnam.
Corporal Luke Tamatea, 31, and 21-year-old Private Richard Harris were also killed.
The families of all three troops today released statements about the loss of their loved ones.
Baker's family said she was a rock to those close to her.
"She leaves behind a hole in our family that can never be filled. She was the one to turn to if you needed someone calm, with practical help to get you through whatever it was you were going through."
She was always full of spirit and ready for the next adventure. "She was fearless and would give anything a go."
Baker died nine days before her 27th birthday.
"We feel forever blessed to have known her in her short 26 years. We are still coming to grips with what has happened and words cannot express what we are feeling."
Her family spoke of her pride at being an army medic.
They also sent their condolences to the families of Tamatea and Harris.
"We realise that we are not alone in this – there are two other families also grieving with the loss of their loved ones. Our love and prayers are with them."
Tamatea's family said they couldn't describe how saddened they were by his death.
"This is a difficult time for our family, Luke’s friends and his brothers in the battalion."
Tamatea took his job in the army very seriously. "When he went to Banda Aceh in response to the tsunami, he really wanted to be on the first flight in as this meant he could make the most difference in people’s lives."
The army had changed his life. "He was a natural leader and was able to use his skills and experience helping others. Luke was a consummate professional as a soldier as his accomplishments show."
However, his proudest achievement was his family who would miss him most. "Particularly his four beautiful daughters who will remain his legacy."
Harris' family said the young soldier was their pride and joy. "He was such a good boy who loved his whanau dearly and loved life."
They described him as a laid back, quiet, fun loving and mischievous guy who could light up the room with his smile. "In his free time he liked chilling with the bros."
He had a passion for rugby and spent three years in his high school first XV.
Harris was of Ngapuhi and Ngati Maru descent and spent time with his extended whanau in Hokianga before being deployed to Afghanistan.
His tangi will be held at the Piki Te Aroha Marae, at Rahiri in Hokianga.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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