Fallen digger buried
PREMIER Anna Bligh brought the kind thoughts of all Queenslanders and all Australians with her when she attended the funeral yesterday of Gympie's fallen hero Corporal Ashley Birt.
A large contingent of hockey players from Maryborough and up to 300 soldiers camped at the Cooloola Comets Stadium, joined by Gympie mates and family friends to farewell the young man.
Cpl Birt was killed by a rogue Afghan solider along with two other Australians in Afghanistan last month.
A huge crowd, estimated at up to 2000, quickly occupied all 750 seats set out in the Pavilion, while the rest stood along walls and in the foyer.
Police in plain clothes and dark-suited security people mixed watchfully with the crowd.
An army honour guard and escort, led by a piper and drummer, guided the funeral vehicle as it towed the ceremonial gun carriage bearing Cpl Birt's casket.
Army chaplain Isaac Khan said the 23rd Psalm had for thousands of years provided comfort to people who found themselves, as the people of Gympie did yesterday, in "the valley of the shadow of death".
He asked God to help Cpl Birt's friends and loved ones to cope with their feelings of "loss, grief, anger and confusion".
Eulogies from Gympie's Dean Walker and Kayden Dickfos were supported by those of the army's Lance Corporal Matthew Evans and Sapper Mitchell McKean, telling of a young man who had been committed to making the most of every hour, proving it from birth when it was discovered that he only slept an hour or two out of every 24.
The gathering was told that Ashley and his brother and fellow soldier, Cpl Dale Birt, "loved each other and hated each other but no one could say anything bad about them because they were always there for each other".