Losing Ashley: 'I couldn't bring my brother home'
WHEN the sun set on this year's Anzac Day, the nation tuned into the modern day war story of two young serving Gympie brothers - one who came home a war veteran and one who was tragically killed.
Dale Birt was the focus of a moving television piece on Channel 10's The Project, where he opened up about losing his younger brother Corporal Ashley Birt.
In 2011 Gympie brothers Dale, then 25, and Ashley Birt, 22, were on deployment in Afghanistan in a secured green zone when an Afghan National Army soldier turned an automatic weapon on Australian soldiers participating in a weekly parade.
Corporal Ashley Birt, a well-respected soldier described as a good-hearted larrikin by those closest to him, was one of three Australian soldiers killed.
On Thursday night Dale revealed the moment he learned his only sibling had been killed.
"Two Aussie guys came in from my unit back in Townsville, and (with) tears streaming down their face, (they said) "we just got told Corporal Birt just got killed”,” he told The Project.
"And I laughed at them and said - well clearly I'm not. And then I remember the moment where it hit me.”
Dale's partner Ashleigh, was asked to support Dale's parents Linda and Don Birt at home when they were told the news.
"I just remember Linda crying, 'which one, which one, tell me which one', ” she said.
Dale accompanied his brother's body home, while fellow soldiers saluted the plane as it left for Australia.
"The thing that got me the most is that we'd always told mum and dad that we were going to be safe over there.
"(I was so) sorry I couldn't bring my little brother home.”
One of his last memories of Dale showed the future he thought belonged to his brother.
"We were both on the top bunks and I just remember laying there laughing saying: 'How cool's this - we're gong to be able to tell our kids that we were both deployed together.'
"And he just laughed and said: 'What made you think of that you idiot?'.”
Now with three children, two of whom never met their uncle, Dale strives to live life to the fullest.
"It's pretty easy when you've got the kids - Ash wouldn't want us to be sad about it.
"(I just want to) remember the happy times and get on with it.”