The 24-year-old nephew of Defence Minister Phil Goff became the first New Zealand citizen to be killed in action in Afghanistan when he was gunned down in a bloody ambush.
Matthew Ferrara, a US Army officer, was killed with five other soldiers from the Nato-led International Security Assistance Force and three Afghan National Army soldiers by insurgents in an ambush in eastern Afghanistan on Friday.
Eight Nato troops and 11 Afghan soldiers were also wounded during the battle, which began about 4pm.
Lieutenant Ferrara, who had been in Afghanistan for about five months, is the son of Mr Goff's sister, Linda, and has dual New Zealand-United States citizenship.
The combined forces were ambushed while on foot patrol in the mountainous province of Nuristan.
They fended off the attack with small-arms, machineguns, mortars, artillery and close-air support.
The US has responsibility for territory in Afghanistan's volatile east along the Pakistani border.
Officials have said it is too early to determine whether the attack was carried out by Taleban or al-Qaeda forces. Criminal gangs are also known to operate in the area.
Nato force spokesman General Carlos Branco said: "Our thoughts are with the families and friends of the soldiers who were killed and those who were injured in [Friday] night's attack."
Lieutenant Ferrera's mother moved to Los Angeles in 1980 with her American husband Mario, an engineer she met while living in Thames.
The slain soldier was the third of their five children.The first two were born in NZ. Lieutenant Ferrara and his two younger brothers were born in the US. All four of the couple's sons entered the military. One is serving with the US Army in Thailand, another is based in California, and the youngest is training to be a soldier at the United States Military Academy at West Point in New York state, which Lieutenant Ferrara also attended.
The only daughter, Simone Carmichael, competed for New Zealand in the Fifa Women's World Soccer Cup in China in September. She plays for the Ajax America soccer club.
Lieutenant Ferrara's grandfather, Bruce Goff of Howick, a former military man himself, told the Herald his grandson attended South High in Torrance, a city southwest of Los Angeles.
"He was a very good sportsman. You have about point one per cent chance of getting into West Point. It's such an elite place. You get an education that's second to none, the world's your oyster. But there's always the dark point, too. You have to go to war."
Mr Goff said Matthew finished 9th in his class at West Point and had wanted to be a surgeon at one stage. he was also a qualified pilot after training with the US Air Force.
Mr Goff and his wife, Elaine, have been to the US more than 30 times to see their family and attend three of their grandsons' graduation ceremonies. Lieutenant Ferrara had also visited his grandparents in Auckland many times and enjoyed fishing with them.
Mr Goff said he would be unable to attend his grandson's funeral as his wife had been sick. But his son Phil would fly to Los Angeles for the service at the end of the week.Phil Goff and his family attended his nephew's West Point graduation in May 2005. "We were proud of his achievements as a scholar and an athlete, graduating towards the top of his class," the minister said yesterday.
"But most of all he was a decent young man, loved by his family."
The Prime Minister said Mr Goff had told her of his nephew's death. "It's a very tragic situation for the families of all involved and very distressing for Mr Goff and his family."
NZPA 13th November 2007
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Text in italics supplied by Cenotaph Online, Auckland War Memorial Museum