Prime Minister John Key will miss the commemorative service for the two soldiers killed in Afghanistan, opting to go ahead instead with a trip to the United States to support his son at a baseball tournament.
Mr Key said yesterday it was a hard call. "I have got to let somebody down. But my son makes huge sacrifices for me and my job and in the final analysis I thought it was the right thing to do."
Mr Key visited the families of Lance Corporals Pralli Durrer and Rory Malone, who were killed in a clash with insurgents in Bamiyan province on Saturday, to explain why he would not be at the service.
His son, Max, is a member of the New Zealand under-17 baseball team. It is the first time a Kiwi team has been represented at the Senior League World Series, held in Bangor, Maine.
Bill English, as acting prime minister, would represent the Government at the service at Burnham Military Camp, near Christchurch, starting at 1pm tomorrow.
Labour leader David Shearer said he would attend, but declined to comment on Mr Key's choice. "It's a decision for the prime minister."
In September 2010 John Key cancelled a scheduled trip to Europe in the wake of the Christchurch earthquake.
Meanwhile, emotional scenes marked the return home of New Zealand's two slain soldiers last night.
A Ramp Ceremony was held at Christchurch International Airport as the bodies of Durrer, of Christchurch, and Malone, from Auckland, arrived back on home soil.
Families were the first to be invited onboard the United States Air Force C-17 after the plane touched down late last night.
Army personnel decorated the soldiers' caskets, and their respective units performed a haka as they were carried across the tarmac to the waiting hearse.
The bodies were taken to Burnham Military Camp, where the commerative service will be held.
The New Zealand flag will be flown at half-mast on all Government and public buildings tomorrow to mark the funerals of Lance Corporal Pralli Durrer and Lance Corporal Rory Malone of the New Zealand Defence Force, who were killed in Afghanistan.
The Ministry of Culture and Heritage confirmed the move today.
- The Dominion Post