Jacinda Baker's family speak of loss
The family of Christchurch's fallen soldier, Jacinda Baker, say while her death has left a "hole that can never be filled", they were blessed to have known her.
Lance Corporal Baker, 26, 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.
The statement from the Baker family said the family were still "coming to grips" with her death.
"Words cannot express what we are feeling. We feel forever blessed to have known her in her short 26 years. She was only nine days away from her 27th birthday on August 28," it said.
"Jacinda was, and will always be remembered, as an amazing daughter, partner, sister, granddaughter, great-granddaughter, cousin, niece, friend and soldier in the New Zealand Army."
The family described Baker as "a girl full of spirit" and "always ready for her next adventure".
"She was fearless and would give anything a go," they said.
"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."
Baker was very professional and took great pride in her job, they said.
"She was proud to be a medic in the New Zealand Army, proud of the work she carried out, and we in turn were and are so incredibly proud of her," they said.
"We know that she is in an amazing place with her Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ. However, we will miss her more than she ever will know. She leaves behind a hole in our family that can never be filled."
The family offered their support to the families of Tamatea, of Kawerau, and Harris, of Pukekohe.
"We realise that we are not alone in this - there are two other families also grieving with the loss of their loved ones - and all of our sincere best wishes and condolences go to those families. Our love and prayers are with them,'' they said.
"We also wish to give thanks for the amazing love and support we have experienced from so many different people."
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.
Service for soldiers likely Saturday
A memorial service for the three New Zealand soldiers will probably be held on Saturday, Prime Minister John Key said.
The deaths came only two weeks after an insurgent attack claimed the lives of two other New Zealand soldiers, lance corporals Rory Malone and Pralli Durrer, both 26, on August 5.
Key said the bodies of the three soldiers would probably return to New Zealand on Thursday, and the memorial service would probably be held on Saturday.
He has confirmed he would attend the service, even if it clashed with the Pacific Forum that starts on Monday.
Key had been criticised for not being at Malone and Durrer's memorial service because his son was playing baseball in the United States.
The latest deaths have taken the number of Kiwi soldiers who have died in Afghanistan to 10.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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