Helping those who help us

October 9, 2012

If the lives of the interpreters working with Kiwi troops in Afghanistan are at risk, we have a moral obligation to allow them, and their families, to settle in New Zealand.

Prime minister John Key says he’s sympathetic to 26 interpreters working with Kiwi troops in Afghanistan who claim their lives are in danger if they can’t resettle in New Zealand.

The interpreters with the New Zealand provincial reconstruction team in the Bamiyan province are seeking asylum in New Zealand, saying they and their families will be captured, tortured and killed by insurgent forces for helping the foreigners.

The New Zealand troops are due to withdrawal from the province in April.

Defence Minister Jonathan Coleman is preparing recommendations on their plight and will take a paper to Cabinet for approval.

Key today said the interpreters had a legitimate position to put to the government.

“They have worked for New Zealand with New Zealand’s best interests at heart and it is at least feasible that there is some risk to them if they remain in Afghanistan.’’

However, the government would need to test their claims, he said. . .

Life in Afghanistan is risky for anyone and it is a very real possibility that these interpreters and their families might be at greater risk because of their work with our troops.

If there is any doubt about the safety of the people who’ve helped our people they should be granted asylum and assisted to settle here.

Who care’s what a soldier thinks?

August 22, 2012

In a cave in the mountains of Afghanistan three men sit looking at a computer screen.

“Heh, look at that,” the first one says, pointing at a news website. “We’re winning”

“Oh yes,” says the second, “The Opposition is calling for New Zealand troops to come home early and look at all those comments from people saying they should cut and run.”

“But look at this says the third, the Prime Minister is saying it’s not that easy.

He reads from the screen:

“It would take months, not days, for New Zealand to withdraw from the war-torn nation, Mr Key told TVNZ this morning.

“To leave early wouldn’t be sensible, it wouldn’t be practical and it wouldn’t be right.

“We made a commitment. I don’t think we are the type of country that cuts and runs.”

Mr Key said ministers had recently been considering options for an ”orderly withdrawal”.

The timing has not been affected by the loss of five soldiers in past few weeks, he said.

“But who’s listenign to him. They’ve got freedom of speech there,” the first man says. “People can say what they like and they’re are saying ‘bring ’em home’.”

“Yeah, makes you glad we don’t have that sort of freedom nonsense here,” the second man says.

“But what about this, look at what a soldier’s saying,” the third man says and reads out again:

As a former NZ infantry soldier and having deployed to Afghanistan I believe I can comment on this thread. This year alone I have lost 4 friends in Afghanistan, having served closely with 3 of them, most recently Corporal Tamatea. As sad as the situation is the consensus among all my mates still serving is that the last thing they want is to be withdrawn from theatre. As far as they’re concerned they have a job to do and a duty to uphold which they haven’t fulfilled. To them, 2013 is to soon to come out. All this talk about John Key having no respect? He went to the homes of my friends(Durrer and Malone) and offered his personal condolences then, remember he also has a family and an obligation to them. Ask anybody serving now and they’ll tell you that’s how they feel. On backing Labour because they would prefer that our troops were withdrawn sooner rather than later. We were sent in by labour in the first place, I served in Afghanistan under a Labour government. In summary, as soldiers they know the risks of deploying to such environments as Afghanistan, they know there is a chance they could pay the ultimate price. As a former infantryman I know that Luke would be happy that he died doing what he loved to do- soldiering. He was an excellent operator, with exceptional “soldier skills”. Today there are a lot of heavy hearts in the NZDF because of this tragedy. Mourn for them and their families, and pray that nothing else happens to the rest of our brave men and women serving there but know that they would all rather be there making a difference than here. All my currently serving friends want to deploy to do there part(some again).

“Who cares what a soldier thinks? the first man says.

“”Yeah, who cares about soldiers,” the second one grins. “We’ve got the people back home stirred up and worried. They’re frightened, we’re winning.”

Equality dirty and dangerous too – Updated

August 20, 2012

Equal opportunity allows women to take on roles which were formerly the preserve of men.

When it reaches the headlines, it’s usually in regard to high paying and – at least from the outside – glamorous positions.

The announcement that one of the three soldier killed in Afghanistan was a woman is a reminder that equality also provides the opportunity to do the dirty and dangerous.

The three who died were:

Lance Corporal Jacinda Baker (26), Private Richard Harris (21) and Corporal Luke Tamatea  (31). . .

. . . CPL Luke Douglas Tamatea joined the NZ Army in February 2000 and was posted to 1st Battalion Royal New Zealand Infantry Regiment (1 RNZIR) in Linton. He deployed to Timor-Leste in 2001, to Solomon Islands in 2003 and to Sumatra to help with the Tsunami in 2005. CPL Tamatea had also previously deployed to Afghanistan in 2007. He was posted to 2/1 RNZIR in 2007.  CPL Tamatea was promoted to LCPL in September 2005 and to CPL in June 2008.

LCPL Jacinda Francis Elyse Baker joined the NZ Army as a medic and was posted to Burnham Regional Support Company in April 2007. LCPL Baker was posted to 2/1 RNZIR in December 2007, and deployed to Solomon Islands in 2010. LCPL Baker received a Chief of Army Commendation in 2011 for her professionalism and courage during Exercise Southern Warrior in June 2008. LCPL Baker was promoted to LCPL in July 2008. 

PTE Richard Lee Harris joined the NZ Army in February 2009 and was posted to 2/1 RNZIR. PTE Harris had previously deployed to Timor-Leste in 2009/2010.

Their gender makes no difference to the loss. They have all died  far too young.

While those of us who didn’t know them can acknowledge the tragedy,  the loss and grief are personal for their family, friends and those with whom they served.


It is still so new & all we see is the empty space, but that is not how it is in the landscape of the heart. There, there is no empty space & she still laughs & grapples with ideas & plans & nods wisely with each of us in turn. We are proud to have known her. We are proud to have called her friend. Brian Andreas  Landscape of the Heart @ Story People
They left me
with your shadow,
saying things likeLife is not fair

& I believed them

for a long time.

But today,

I remembered
the way you laughed

& the heat

of your hand

in mine

& I knew that

life is more fair

than we can

ever imagine


we are there to live it

Brian Andreas More Fair @ Story people

Lest we forget

August 20, 2012

The words are on most war memorials and we say them every Anzac Day – lest we forget.

But most of us don’t often remember the men and women who fought and died and those who are still on active service.

Today we are reminded again by the death of three soldiers who were serving with the Provincial Reconstruction Team in Afghanistan that even though New Zealand isn’t at war we still have service people in war-torn countries.

That they are living in constant danger.

That they will see friends severely injured or die and have to carry on.

That people here farewell family members and friends not knowing if they will ever see them again.

That families have to adjust to long absences of a spouse or parent, and readjust to the homecoming, if they are lucky.

That some won’t be lucky.

That we shouldn’t take peace, security and freedom for granted.

Two deaths on eve of World Peace Day

August 5, 2012

On the eve of World Peace Day we’ve had a  reminder of  the tragedy of war:

It is with great sadness that Prime Minister John Key has learned of the death of two New Zealand soldiers serving with the Provincial Reconstruction Team in Bamyan, Afghanistan.

The soldiers were killed during an encounter with insurgents, which began at about 7:00pm last night (NZ time) after they went to the aid of local security forces under attack.

Two local security personnel were also killed during the attack.

Another six New Zealand Defence Force personnel, 10 local security personnel, and one civilian were also injured.

“This brings the total number of New Zealand soldiers who have lost their lives in Afghanistan to seven,” Mr Key says.

“It reinforces the danger faced daily by our forces as they work tirelessly to restore stability to the Province.

“It is with enormous sadness that I acknowledge that these soldiers have paid the highest price. My thoughts are with the family and friends of the two brave soldiers killed and also with the families and friends of those injured.”

Governor General  Sir Jerry Mateparae, a former soldier and current Commander in Chief, said:

It was with great sadness that I learned of the tragic death of our two soldiers in the Bamiyan Province.
Serving in New Zealand’s Defence Force and being deployed in war-torn countries, such as Afghanistan, carries significant risk. The soldiers, whose names are yet to be released, bring to seven the number of New Zealand Defence Force soldiers to be killed while on operations in Afghanistan.
Serving with the Provincial Reconstruction Team, those two soldiers, who paid the ultimate sacrifice, and the six injured, have been part of a team that has worked tirelessly and consistently to bring peace and stability to the Province.
Their presence in Afghanistan exemplified their dedication to New Zealand and the New Zealand Defence Force’s mission in that country.
On behalf of all New Zealanders, Janine and I extend our deepest sympathies to the families, friends and mates-in-arms of the two deceased soldiers, as they come to terms with this tragic loss. Our thoughts are also with the families and friends of those who have been injured.

Tragedy not an excuse

August 21, 2011

The death of a New Zealand SAS soldier in Afghanistan is a tragedy but it should not be used as an excuse for withdrawing our troops from that troubled country.

Mr Key said he was “deeply saddened” by the death. But he stood firm on his
decision to have a New Zealand presence in Afghanistan.

“I believe passionately in the work that they are doing. They are ensuring
that the innocent lives of thousands in Afghanistan are preserved, and giving
Afghanistan hope for their country.

“They are working to make the world a safer place from global terrorism. It
is not my view that due to the death of our soldier, we should reconsider our
position in Afghanistan. We stay absolutely committed to continuing our work in

“It would be the completely wrong thing for us to consider cutting and
running. I don’t think it would honour the death of this soldier and I don’t
think it would actually be what New Zealanders would expect us to do in this

There are strong arguments for and against New Zealand’s service in Afghanistan, but this soldier’s death should not be used to justify either position.

The death of this young man is against the natural order of things and it would be dishonouring him, the reasons he served and what he fought for if it was exploited for political ends.

His family, friends and colleagues should be left to grieve without his service, and ultimate sacrifice, being belittled by debate on New Zealand’s role in the on-going war.

Lest we forget

August 4, 2010

A friend’s son is serving in Afghanistan.

My first reaction on hearing the news that one of our soldiers serving there had been killed and two others wounded, was to pray it wasn’t him.

Somewhere in New Zealand this morning the family and friends of the soldier will be coming to terms with the news that the young man they farewelled a few months ago isn’t coming back.

It is the first death of one of our service people in Afghanistan. It reinforces the real and ever present danger they face in trying to help people on the other side of the world so that they might one day enjoy the peace we take for granted.

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