Senior military officials pay tribute to CPL Hughes as he is carried off a RNZAF C-130 aircraft.
08 April 2012
It was a sombre occasion as Corporal (CPL) Douglas Hughes, who died tragically in Afghanistan earlier this week, completed his journey home when he arrived back in New Zealand late last night.
CPL Hughes arrived in Whenuapai on a Royal New Zealand Air Force C-130 at 2130 hours, and was met by members of his family and a small contingent of personnel from the 1st Battalion, Royal New Zealand Infantry Regiment.
In attendance at the ramp ceremony were the senior military and civilian personnel of the NZ Defence Force who paid their respects to CPL Hughes and his family. The ceremony was also attended by the Police Commissioner, Peter Marshall.
According to the Chief of Defence Force, Lieutenant General Rhys Jones, the military profession is all about bravery and sacrifice, stating that, “The ramp ceremony signifies the respect and honour that the military pays to its fallen soldiers.”
To ensure that he was returned in accordance with his families wishes, a C-130 from the Royal Australian Air Force was used to transport CPL Hughes for a portion of the journey.
Lieutenant General Rhys Jones acknowledged that the support provided by the Australian Defence Force was crucial in repatriating CPL Hughes back to NZ.
“The NZ Defence Force are extremely grateful for the assistance provided by the Royal Australian Air Force which enabled Dougie to come back home as expeditiously as possible.”
“Leading up to Anzac Day, it is a very poignant reminder of the close relationship that we share with the Australian Defence Force.”
At the completion of the Coroner’s initial examination, CPL Hughes will be taken by his family to Tuakau whilst final arrangements are made for his tangi in Kaikohe later in the week.
Statement on behalf of Corporal Hughes’ family:
The New Zealand Defence Force is releasing this statement on behalf of the family of Corporal Douglas Charles Hughes, the New Zealand soldier who was killed in Afghanistan on 3 April 2012.
“This has been an extremely difficult last few days for our family, but we are encouraged by all the support we have received from Dougie’s friends and the wider community, and we are very relieved to have him back in New Zealand.
“We realise now how much of an impact Dougie had on those with whom he socialised with and worked with during his time in the NZ Army. He was a much loved soldier, son, brother and friend to so many people.
“We are all extremely proud of what Dougie has achieved during his career in the NZ Army and our focus now is to make sure that he gets the farewell that he deserves.
“Once he is back in our arms, we will take him back to Kaikohe where he will lie in state on the family marae. So many people held deep admiration for Dougie, and we have been humbled by all the family who have chosen to travel from America, the UK, South Africa and Australia and support the whanau.
“Dougie’s tangi will be held on Thursday 12 April and we ask that media continue to respect our privacy during this difficult period.”