Anguish at death of 'fearless' Kiwi soldier
NICCI MCDOUGALL AND FAIRFAX
"We love you and forever will."
Lance Corporal Jacinda Baker's partner, Geoff Fosbender, of Invercargill, paid tribute yesterday to his partner of two years.
The 26-year-old was one of three Kiwi soldiers killed on Sunday in a roadside bomb attack in the northeast of Afghanistan's Bamiyan province.
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.
Mr Fosbender, who is also a soldier and the son of senior Invercargill surgeon, Murray Fosbender, said yesterday that no form of training could prepare you for the news.
"The only thing that helps numb such an immense amount of hurt and anguish are our families and loved ones coming together to get through this extremely sad situation, one step at a time.
"Jacinda has left a massive space in our hearts and can never be replaced. Jacinda has left our arms but will never be forgotten. We love you and forever will."
Jacinda was a selfless person who would never hesitate to help anyone day or night, he said.
"Whether she was wearing the uniform or not, Jacinda acted with courage and comradeship, making sure everyone around her felt comfortable and safe."
Friends gave Mr Fosbender overwhelming support on Facebook yesterday with comments such as: "Thinking of you Geoff. Take care." "Love ya mate, Kia kaha . . . thinking of u bro xxx" and "Thoughts are with ya mate. Stay strong."
Lance Corporal Baker's family were still coming to grips with the death of their daughter.
A statement issued yesterday by the Baker family said Jacinda would always be remembered as an amazing daughter, partner, sister, grand-daughter, great-granddaughter, cousin, niece, friend and soldier in the New Zealand Army.
"We are still coming to grips with what has happened and words cannot express what we are feeling.
"We feel forever blessed to have known her in her short 26 years . . . we will miss her more than she ever will know.
"She leaves behind a hole in our family that can never be filled."
She was nine days from celebrating her 27th birthday on August 28.
"Jacinda was a girl full of spirit, always ready for her next adventure. She was fearless and would give anything a go.
"Jacinda was loyal and our rock. 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," the family said.
She was proud to be a medic in the New Zealand Army and proud of the work she carried out.
"And we, in turn, were and are so incredibly proud of her."
The family sent their condolences to the families of Corporal Tamatea and Private Harris.
"We also wish to give thanks for the amazing love and support we have experienced from so many different people."
The Defence Force said the soldiers were farewelled at a ceremony in Afghanistan yesterday.
Their bodies would return to Christchurch tomorrow in an Air Force C-130 Hercules, with a final ramp ceremony held to mark their arrival.
Prime Minister John Key said a memorial service for the three soldiers would probably be held on Saturday.
The Defence Force confirmed that six other soldiers injured in the Bamiyan firefight that killed Lance Corporals Pralli Durrer and Rory Malone had returned to New Zealand.
Three soldiers were still in hospital, and all six would receive "ongoing care and support" from the Defence Force.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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