Fallen Gympie soldier's family to light Memorial Lane flame
THE parents of fallen Gympie soldier Ashley Birt will light the eternal flame at the Memorial Gates tonight ahead of Anzac Day commemorations throughout the region.
Corporal Birt was killed on operations in Afghanistan on October 29, 2011 at the age of just 22. His mother Linda and father Donald will light the flame, which will remain alight throughout Anzac Day to honour him and all those who served.
Gympie RSL Club treasurer Martin Muller said the entire community was invited to visit Memorial Lane for the ceremony at 6pm, and beforehand to lay floral tributes along the gates.
"We invite family and citizens of the Gympie district to come down and lay a floral tribute in honour of those who have served,” Mr Muller said.
"From 3-6pm tomorrow people are more than welcome to attend, and there'll be people here to assist with the tributes.
"It's a tradition that spans back 100 years that we recognise those who paid the ultimate sacrifice.”
Mr Muller reiterated the importance of paying respects on Anzac Day, and pointed to the Dawn Service at Memorial Lane and the Anzac Day march through Mary St as opportunities for the community to "pause and reflect”.
"The price of liberty is eternal vigilance is the RSL's motto,” he said.
"Unfortunately there's always been war, but it's the courage of people to stand up against tyranny, and Australians and New Zealanders have always walked forward towards it.
"Our coat of arms has two animals walking forward on it.
"It's a time for us as a district to just pause and reflect. It's a time for the people who came back and for us to be there for the families who lost a loved one.”
Mr Martin said the RSL Club had invited Corporal Birt's family to light the flame instead of a federal or state member based on a mutual agreement that it was "more pertinent”.
"The flame will continue to burn in memory of those who have fallen,” he said.
Tomorrow's Dawn Service starts at 5am at the Reef St entrance to Memorial Lane, and the Anzac Day march starts at 10.30am.
Corporal Birt's "Vale” tribute on the Australian Defence Force website describes him as "a great mate to his many colleagues and well liked by all.
"He was a larrikin and someone who was always smiling. His mates remember him as a great bloke, a distinguished sportsman and an excellent soldier. He will not be forgotten and will always remain a part of the sapper family.”