Dale and Ashley Birt, photographed just before their deployment to Afghanistan.
Dale and Ashley Birt, photographed just before their deployment to Afghanistan.

MY BROTHER ASH: Australia to share Gympie's sadness

DALE Birt brought his brother Ashley home to Gympie nearly eight years ago.

It was the saddest imaginable time for him and his family, particularly his well known and widely liked mother and father, Linda and Don Birt.

Corporal Ashley Birt was killed on operations in Afghanistan on October 29, 2011, gunned down by a person he was helping to train.

Tonight, Dale and his wife Ashleigh will recall their personal moments in an Anzac Day segment on Channel 10's The Project.

This picture by Tegan Maree Photography shows Dale and Ashley just before their deployment.

Ashley Birt would have turned 30 a week ago.

Dale was 25 and Ash 22 when Ashley's life was suddenly ended by an act of war zone murder and betrayal.

Dale recalled yesterday how he was assigned to one of the larger Australian bases. Ashley was at a patrol base that day and died in a random shooting.

He, Captain Bryce Duffy and Lance Corporal Luke Gavin were killed when a rogue Afghan soldier turned on them and opened fire after a parade.

Although a little tight-lipped about his feelings on the day he learned of his brother's death, Dale said much of the story would be revealed on The Project.

It was a story he said needed to be told in full and not abbreviated and that is what he is hoping he will see on television tonight.

Dale's wife Ashleigh said the story made national television not only as a result of its powerful emotional content, but through the efforts of family friend and television journalist Natasha Exelby.

Speaking from the couple's hobby farm near Brisbane, she said they had connected with Natasha earlier in the year and had become quite good friends.

"She floated the idea of doing a story on Ash, which seemed fitting, as she had done an interview with him while he was deployed.

"Natasha and the team atThe Project sent out were absolutely lovely and very respectful,” she said. "We knew we were in good hands with them.

"Our story is about Dale and Ash as kids, through to their time in Afghanistan and how we all found out the tragic news.

"We also chat about Ash as a person and what Dale and I are up to now. But for more details, you will have to tune in to the program at 6.30pm,” she said.

Vietnam veteran and mayor Ron Dyne took a significant role in representing the Birt family, especially parents Linda and Don, who were both council employees.

Ashley's 2011 death lent a special significance to Gympie Remembrance Day commemorations that year.

For the first time in 41 years, another name joined the honour roll of Gympie's war dead on the gates of Memorial Lane. Afghanistan and the war on terror were distant issues no longer. A large contingent of Maryborough hockey players remembered a ferocious team mate and opponent and were joined by about 300 soldiers who camped at the Cooloola Comets Stadium.

Last night Don and Linda Birt lit the Anzac Memorial Flame in Memorial Lane to begin Gympie's Anzac Day commemorations.

Gympie Times


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