The bodies of Lance Corporals Pralli Durrer and Rory Malone, the New Zealand soldiers killed in Afghanistan last Saturday, arrived home in what the Defence Force says was a "sombre" military ceremony on Thursday night.
They were flown to Christchurch on a United States Air Force C-17 and met 10.50pm by members of their families, senior military officials, and personnel from 2nd/1st Battalion Royal New Zealand Infantry Regiment and Queen Alexandra's Mounted Rifles.
Final arrangements are being made for a military commemorative service on Saturday at Burnham Military Camp, before Lance Corporals Durrer and Malone are returned to their families for private funeral services.
The government will be represented at the military service by Deputy Prime Minister Bill English, as Prime Minister John Key flew to the US on Thursday night to watch his son Max play for the New Zealand under-17 baseball team at the Senior Little League World Series in Maine.
Mr Key visited the families of Lance Corporals Pralli Durrer and Rory Malone to extend his condolences and said it was a hard call not to attend the service.
"I have got to let somebody down. But my son makes huge sacrifices for me and my job and in the final analysis I thought it was the right thing to do," he told media on Thursday.
The two soldiers, both aged 26, were shot by insurgents in Bamyan province where they were serving with New Zealand's Provincial Reconstruction Team.
The Chief of Defence Force, Lieutenant General Rhys Jones, says the Defence Force will continue to support the Durrers and the Malones over this difficult time.
He thanked the US Air Force for bringing the men home as quickly as possible.
Five New Zealand soldiers wounded in last Saturday's attack have been transferred to a military hospital in Germany for further treatment and one remains in Afghanistan in a serious but stable condition.