Scores of people turned up on Thursday at the residences of Colonel Manpreet Singh and Major Ashish Dhonchak, killed in a gunfight with terrorists in Jammu and Kashmir's Anantnag, to mourn the loss, with some saying the Army should give a befitting reply to the ultras for the cowardly act.
A number of villagers turned up at the houses of Singh (in Mohali's Mullanpur) and Dhonchak (in Panipat) in the morning.
The families of the two slain Army officers were inconsolable.
Officials said the bodies of the two deceased officers have been brought to the Army's 92 Base Hospital in Srinagar.
The mortal remains of the two are expected to reach their respective places by the evening or early next morning, the family members said.
They said Singh's wife, a school teacher in Panchkula district, was given the news of her husband's death in the morning, after being told on Wednesday that he was seriously injured.
A third-generation soldier, Singh has also left behind a two-year-old daughter and a six-year-old son.
Dhonchak's family includes his wife, a two-year-old daughter and three sisters.
Punjab Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann and his Haryana counterpart Manohar Lal Khattar took to X and paid tributes to the slain officers.
Those who turned up to express grief and be with the families in this tragic hour said the Army should give a befitting reply to the terrorists.
"Everyone knows that Pakistan has waged a proxy war. Our Army should give a befitting reply once and for all, so that no mother has to mourn the loss of her son, no sister loses her brother again in this manner, no wife loses her husband and no child loses its father," an elderly man who lives in Dhonchak's neighbourhood told reporters in Panipat.
In Mullanpur, Singh's wailing mother Manjit Kaur said, "The government should eliminate terrorists. It should take a tough decision now."
"My colonel, my son has been killed," she said.
Kaur said she spoke to her son on Sunday afternoon and he had told her that he would soon come home on leave.
She said he was around 40 years of age and she has lost him after losing his father, also an ex-serviceman, in 2014.
Singh's sister said she spoke to him on the occasion of Raksha Bandhan recently.
He had only a few months left for his present tenure in his current place of posting, she said with tears rolling down her eyes.
Manpreet Singh's uncle Harmel Singh said his nephew was always keen to join the Army.
"We are proud of his supreme sacrifice for the nation. He was a brave officer. In another encounter earlier, he had neutralised two terrorists," he said.
The slain colonel's brother Sandeep said the former had visited home in January for a week.
He had said he would again come home in December, he said.
While Dhonchak's family lives in Panipat's Sector 7, his native village is Binjhol in Panipat district. His family said he was supposed to come home on leave next month.
Manpreet Singh's in-laws live in Panchkula's Sector 26.
His wife's brother told reporters in Panchkula that they received information of the tragedy on Wednesday evening.
However, Singh's wife was informed about it only on Thursday morning, he said.
Holding on to his two-year-old granddaughter Bani, Singh's father-in-law Jagdev told reporters that the slain officer had received the Sena Medal last year.
Harmel Singh told reporters that since childhood, the deceased officer had shown leadership qualities.
"He was always smiling and ready to help others," he said.
Another relative of the slain colonel said they spoke to him on Wednesday morning and never knew that this would be their last conversation with him.
A relative of Dhonchak told reporters in Panipat that he sacrificed his life for the sake of the country.
His brother Ashish said he was lucky to have him as his elder brother.
Ashish was to shift to a new house in Panipat in October. The family got the house built as it was living in a rented accommodation.
Three Army personnel, including the colonel and the major, and a deputy superintendent of the Jammu and Kashmir Police were killed in the gunfight with terrorists in the higher reaches of the Kokorenag area in the valley.
Singh, the commanding officer of 19 Rashtriya Rifles, Dhonchak and Deputy Superintendent of Police Humayun Bhat were critically injured in the gunfight that ensued in the Garol area of Anantnag district in the morning hours of Wednesday.
The officers succumbed to their injuries during treatment.