The New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF) has today confirmed the identify of a soldier killed while on leave in Ukraine.
Corporal Dominic Abelen (pictured), 28, served with 2nd/1st Battalion Royal New Zealand Infantry Regiment (RNZIR) based in Burnham, and had served with the NZDF for 10 years.
He was on a period of leave without pay at the time of his death and was not on active duty with the NZDF.
Acting Chief of Army Brigadier Rose King said the New Zealand Army’s thoughts were with Corporal Abelen’s whānau, friends and colleagues at this difficult time.
“Any loss of one of our whānau is deeply felt across the New Zealand Defence Force. We are concentrating our efforts on supporting Corporal Abelen’s loved ones and our personnel as they grieve,” she said.
“The NZDF is supporting consular officials in respect of possible options regarding formal identification and repatriation, noting the very difficult circumstances of doing so in a conflict zone.”
Commanding Officer of 2/1 RNZIR Lieutenant Colonel Cory Neale said Corporal Abelen was a well-liked and respected soldier who had deployed to Iraq during his time in service.
“Corporal Abelen was a quality junior non-commissioned officer, a trusted go-to member of his company and an absolute character who genuinely cared for his soldiers and friends. He will be missed, but also remembered long into the future.”
In a statement from Corporal Abelen’s father, Bryce, he stated the family had been unaware of their son’s trip to Ukraine prior to his departure.
“Dominic was in the NZ Army for 10 years but never got to fight for his country,” said Mr Abelen.
“He didn’t tell us he was going to Ukraine until he was there. He knew we would talk him out of it. He also knew the risks of going there but still went to fight for them.
“That is Dominic, always thinking of helping others.
“We understand why he went and hold no grudge against the NZ or Ukraine Army and fully support what he did.”
He said Dominic loved being in the army and the life-long friends he made there.
“There has been relentless support from half the Burnham Military Camp that knew him, as well as personnel from overseas,” he said.
“A kind, gentle man with the most infectious smile that you couldn’t help but smile back. He had a love of the outdoors and did a lot of tramping. He spent his holidays travelling around New Zealand and the world.
“I’m extremely proud of my children and especially Dominic for standing up and doing what he thought was right. He leaves a massive hole in all our hearts.”