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Speech: Coleman - Military Memorial Service

Hon Dr Jonathan Coleman
Minister of Defence

11 August 2012

Speech by Minister of Defence,
Military Memorial Service,
Burnham Army Camp, Christchurch.

Kia Ora Tatou, Good Afternoon

Your excellency the Governor General, Sir Jerry Mataparae,
Deputy Prime Minister, Bill English, Parliamentary colleagues,
Members of the New Zealand Defence Force, and most importantly of all, the loved ones, family, whanau and friends of Lance Corporal Pralli Durrer and Lance Corporal Rory Malone.

It is with great respect and gratitude, but mostly with an overwhelming sense of sadness that I address you here today.

And to those closest to the two young men we commemorate, I want to pass on the deepest condolences of the Government and the people of New Zealand.

Our nation has lost two brave young men who have ultimately sacrificed their lives in the service of others.

It is extremely humbling that the men and women of the New Zealand Defence Force serve in Afghanistan, dedicated to making a difference on a wider scale and representing us with such distinction.

We are also of course mindful today of the other six injured NZDF personnel and we pray for their full recovery.

The decision to deploy the New Zealand Defence Force is never made lightly. The Government and Defence Force have always appreciated that the task in Afghanistan carries very real risks, and the fact that up until last weekend we had already lost five personnel there is grim enough testament to that.

I also know that for the members of the Defence Force and those closest to them, that very real risk is a part of their daily lives. That does not make it any easier at a time like this.

In moments of grief it can be difficult to find comfort, but there is comfort to be found.

And so to those closest to Rory and Pralli who are left behind:

I hope there can be comfort in knowing that during their short lives they had known the all too rare passion of doing something they loved.

I hope there is comfort in knowing they met the call of duty with bravery and distinction

I hope there is comfort in knowing that because of the work they and their fellow soldiers have performed in Bamyan, the province is more secure, meaning that hospitals can operate, children are being educated and projects in agriculture and energy can take place.

Life is better in Bamyan because of the efforts of brave people like Pralli Durrer and Rory Malone.

New Zealand may be a small country but our contribution in Afghanistan is consistently and sincerely recognized internationally.

In the past few days our international friends have rallied round to pass on their support.

The United States Secretary of Defence, Leon Panetta, phoned to express the condolences of his country. I thank the United States for their assistance in evacuating the wounded, and returning Rory and Pralli to us.

Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard has phoned our Prime Minister John Key and the Australian Defence Minister has also been in contact to pass on the thoughts and best wishes of the Australian people.

The Afghan Minister of Defence has written to the New Zealand government expressing the deep gratitude of the people of Afghanistan.

And he wrote that the families of the soldiers should be proud of the contribution their loved ones have made to protect the Afghan people from the dangers that threaten their daily lives.

Pralli and Rory will not lie in some corner of a foreign field.

They are back on their own soil, to be mourned by the people who cared about them most, in the country they called home and which is so very, very grateful for their invaluable and important service.

Rory Malone and Pralli Durrer are part of a long tradition of Military service that all New Zealanders can very rightly be proud of.

They are true sons of New Zealand.

We respect their achievements, we admire their bravery and we grieve their loss.

Thank you.

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