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Captain Matthew Ferrara - A Tribute - Phil Goff

Captain Matthew Ferrara - A Tribute

Eulogy at the funeral of Captain Matthew Ferrara (posthumously promoted from the rank of Lieutenant) given by his uncle, New Zealand Defence Minister Phil Goff.

Earlier this year we walked around the streets of Vicenza together, Matt, and you showed us your apartment above the town square.

The next morning you took me on a tour of your base and we talked about your forthcoming deployment in Afghanistan, about later coming to New Zealand and what you might do in the future.

Now we can only speculate on what you might have done. You were bright and determined enough to have become whatever you wanted.

Two years earlier your New Zealand family and United States families came together at West Point to watch you graduate towards the top of the Class of 2005 and to look on as Mum and Dad proudly pinned your lieutenant's bars on your shoulders.

You had grown up to become a fine and decent young man.

You were a challenging child - determined, self-willed and independent, even recalcitrant as Linda once labelled you. We got a glimpse of this early on when you were just four. We had arrived in LA after a long flight and decided we would walk around the block for some exercise. You proclaimed you would show us the way - adults led by a four year old! Two hours later we finally got back to your home but never was there a moment of self-doubt on your part that you knew what you were doing.

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And you had no doubt about what you were doing in Afghanistan and why, though our countries ask a lot of our young men and women in deploying them there.

Earlier I received a letter from New Zealand's commanding officer in Afghanistan, Colonel Brendan Fraher expressing condolences from the Kiwi soldiers in Afghanistan.

"Words cannot portray the depth of feeling we have for you and your family at this time. The reality of the operational environment here in Sector East is known and understood by all of us. We understand the risks and what is required of us as we continue with the tasks we undertake .

"All members of the New Zealand Task Groups who are located at Bagram Air Base lined the route to the flight line, side by side with our US colleagues as Lieutenant Matthew Ferrara and his fellow soldiers began their final journey home".

Matt, we are proud of you, of who you are and what you did. These past few days we have talked about you a lot. We have laughed about the good times and cried because we love you and your loss leaves a gap in our lives which will never be filled.

On Anzac Day, New Zealand's Veterans Day, the old soldiers read out an ode
"They shall not grow old as we who are left grow old
Age shall not weary them nor the years condemn".

For us Matt, you will always be that 24 year old with the cheeky grin in the prime of your life.

On the wall at home, we keep a picture of my uncle John, Dad's younger brother killed in the Pacific in 1944 aged just 19. In the generation before that young men on both sides of our family had died in the First World War. We have always hoped that history would not be repeated - tragically it has been.

To Linda, Mario, Marcus, Simone, Damon and Andy we offer our love and support. Matt's grandparents Bruce and Elaine, his uncle Dean and all his cousins from New Zealand - Kris, Kieran, Leanne, Nick, Ray, Courtney Tyler and Lauren who cannot be here to farewell Matt, will being thinking of him and the Ferrara family at this time.

We have all been touched by the sympathy and support so many have given to us, from the President and Prime Minister to Americans and New Zealanders who just wanted to say how sorry they were at our loss.

In particular, I was moved to receive a letter from Linda and Charlie Manning whose only son, Leonard, was killed in action in East Timor in 2001.

I would like to finish by reading part of it.

"Please know that we are thinking of you all and praying that all of those who love Matthew and now grieve for him will find comfort in knowing that he served his country and his fellow man well. The courage and determination to make a difference that young men like Leonard and Matthew live and die for inspires us to live life the fullest, making the most of every moment we have..

"If there is any advice I could offer it would be for those who grieve to allow themselves to embrace the pain and not to be afraid to feel the full force of it. The pain cannot destroy us because in the end we discover that love is stronger than death, so take all the time it takes to work through it, and to seek all the help needed for the journey. Matthew would want that and those who love him and must now learn to live without him deserve all the tender care that is available".

Matt, go well. You are a very special young man and you will stay in our hearts and our memories always.


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