As the Gympie region prepares to commemorate Anzac Day this Sunday, the mother of slain soldier Ash Birt reflects on the loss of her precious son, and the recent decision to pull Australian troops out of Afghanistan later this year. Her son Corporal Ashley Birt was killed in Afghanistan on 29th October 2011.
As the Gympie region prepares to commemorate Anzac Day this Sunday, the mother of slain soldier Ash Birt reflects on the loss of her precious son, and the recent decision to pull Australian troops out of Afghanistan later this year. Her son Corporal Ashley Birt was killed in Afghanistan on 29th October 2011.

‘Most useless war in history’

Australian troops in Afghanistan will join their US allies later this year in withdrawing from the country, almost 20 years after the war started.

Gympie soldier Corporal Ashley Birt was on deployment in Afghanistan almost 10 years ago when he was shot and killed by a rogue Afghan National Army soldier the Australians had been mentoring.

The 22-year-old was one of 41 Australian soldiers to die in the 20-year conflict, a conflict Ash's mother Linda this week described as the "most useless war in history".

"I think it's a wonderful idea," Linda Birt said of Prime Minister Scott Morrison's decision to withdraw Aussie troops.

"It's extraordinary news to hear they are coming home.

"Ash was in a mentoring role when he went down to teach Afghan soldiers and he was watching a parade when he lost his life."

For Linda though, it's not the 41 Australians who have died in Afghanistan that the government should be concentrating on; it's the thousands who have returned home after active service suffering from Post Traumatic Stress.

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As the Gympie region prepares to commemorate Anzac Day this Sunday, the mother of slain soldier Ash Birt reflects on the loss of her precious son, and the recent decision to pull Australian troops out of Afghanistan later this year. Her son Corporal Ashley Birt was killed in Afghanistan on 29th October 2011.
As the Gympie region prepares to commemorate Anzac Day this Sunday, the mother of slain soldier Ash Birt reflects on the loss of her precious son, and the recent decision to pull Australian troops out of Afghanistan later this year. Her son Corporal Ashley Birt was killed in Afghanistan on 29th October 2011.

It's those soldiers the Federal Government had failed, and they were dying in their hundreds, she said.

"We've lost 41 soldiers over there, but we've lost 4000 over here.

"They have had plenty of time to do something about this and they have not done a thing.

"We are losing hundreds (of these young people) a year. The sad part is it is just going to keep on going and going.

"I can celebrate Ash's life every year, but the parents of these kids with PTS... it makes me angry that we should be doing so much more for these guys."

Dale, Ashley, Linda and Don Birt.
Dale, Ashley, Linda and Don Birt.

As the nation prepares to commemorate Anzac Day on Sunday, the pain of losing her precious son will never go away for Linda, but it has lost its powerful edge after almost a decade.

"Ash would not want us to be 'debbie downers' for the rest of our lives," she said.

She thinks of him "every single day of the week", whether it's Anzac Day, October 29, his birthday or anything else.

Her favourite memories of her precious son are of him playing hockey, his beautiful smile and his carefree attitude.

"He put into 22 years what most of us would put into 50 years. He will be 22 forever."

Linda and Don Birt Anzac Day in Normanby Hill in Gympie 2018.
Linda and Don Birt Anzac Day in Normanby Hill in Gympie 2018.