A YOUNG soldier killed in a firefight with Hamas gunmen in the southern Gaza Strip was born in New Zealand - and his family had planned to return here before he and his sister reached the age of military conscription in Israel.
Staff Sergeant Guy Boyland, a combat engineer for the Israeli 7th Armoured Brigade, was born in New Zealand and lived in Taupo as a baby. When he was 2, he moved to Israel with his older sister Kim, his Israeli mother, Adva, and his Kiwi father Glenn.
Staff Sergeant Guy Boyland last visited New Zealand three years ago, just before he joined the Israeli army.
Yesterday, Staff Sergeant Boyland's Taupo-based grandfather, Jim Boyland, paid tribute to the bravery and patriotism of the 21-year-old, who was killed on Friday.
He was just four months away from finishing his three-year compulsory service, Mr Boyland said.
"It's absolutely shocking and sad that he's been killed. He was very gregarious. He was a very likeable boy. I was proud to see him so patriotic. He was fighting for a cause and he gave his life for it."
Mr Boyland said that when the family left NZ, they had intended to return before the children reached the age of military conscription.
"Glenn ... promised he'd bring them back before they joined the army. He would have liked to ... "
But the family stayed to look after a sick aunt.
In Israel, men must serve three years in the military and women two years once they reach 18.
Last night, as Glenn Boyland prepared to bury his son, he said from Israel that the pain was too raw to talk about what had happened.
Meanwhile, Palestinian militants launched a big rocket salvo at Israel last night, endangering a unilateral ceasefire in the 20-day operation, which has already killed 1047 Palestinians and 43 Israeli soldiers, including Staff Sergeant Boyland.
Jim Boyland said granddaughter Kim, 23, was in the Israeli air force, but she hadn't been called up to fight in the current conflict. She had stayed in the military after finishing her two-year compulsory stint.
Guy Boyland last visited New Zealand three years ago, just before he joined the Israeli army. Even then his "one ambition" had been clear, his grandfather said: he wanted to join the bomb squad.
Jim Boyland, a navy veteran of World War II and the Korean War, said war was "futile, really, when you think about it" - but he was proud of his grandson's bravery.
"He was in his mother's land and had been brought up on a kibbutz. All his friends were Jewish boys and girls. Their war was his war.
"I'm so very proud of him. And I know his grandfather on the other side would have been proud of him too."
His Jewish grandfather had fought in the Six Day War in 1967 and had a distinguished career in the Israeli police force, Jim Boyland said.
Staff Sergeant Boyland's Israeli aunt Rotem Gofar said news of his death had stunned the family.
"Guy is an amazing child. He was brave and a fighter who loved the army. There are no words to describe the grief and the loss," she told Israeli news site ynetnews.com.
Jim Boyland said Guy's uncle Brett was travelling to Israel from Perth - where he is doing a masters degree in counselling - to help comfort the family.
Israeli compulsory military service
• National military service is mandatory for all Israeli citizens over the age of 18, though there are exemptions for Arabs and some others.
• Men are generally required to serve three years in the Israeli Defence Force; women generally serve two years.
• Deferments may be granted to students at higher education institutions, and some new immigrants may also be deferred or serve for shorter periods.
• Those who leave the country will likely be conscripted upon their return.