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Brother pays tribute to Digger
Brother pays tribute to Digger

The brother of fallen Carnarvon-born Digger Lance-Cpl Mervyn McDonald has spoken of his commitment to the army and hopes his sacrifice "will not be forgotten".

"The army was very important to him, he loved it, it was his life," Gary McDonald said last night.

He said the family, which includes Lance-Cpl McDonald's three brothers in WA, were "so proud" of him.

Lance-Cpl McDonald, 30, along with fellow commando Pte Nathanael Aubrey Galagher, 23, was killed on Thursday when the helicopter in which they were passengers crashed while landing in Helmand province, Afghanistan.

He is survived by fiancee Rachael, mother Myrna and stepfather Bernie and brothers Percy, Roger and Gary.

Gary McDonald said yesterday: "I don't want him to be forgotten because the role he played over there, it was pretty important, what he did.

"He was such a nice guy, just an ordinary bloke.

"But he probably saw some things over there that would bowl the average person over."

Mr McDonald described his brother as a "strong man" who was passionate about sport and keeping fit and focused on family.

They grew up in Carnarvon and his brother joined the army at 17.

His death has rocked the tight-knit family, with his young fiancee in Sydney having to wait to find out when his remains will be returned to Australia and they can lay him to rest.

The family were still reeling from the loss of their father two months ago, and the blow of losing their loving brother and son had left them in shock, he said.

Mr McDonald said their father had always been supportive of the work done by the Australian armed forces overseas.

"I know Dad was very proud of what he did," Mr McDonald said.

"He always told Mervyn to join the army from a young age."

The Defence Department hailed Lance-Cpl McDonald, who was on his sixth tour of Afghanistan, as a dedicated man of humility.

"Lance-Cpl McDonald was quick-witted and brought a positive energy to both his unit comrades and all those who served with him," the department said.

"A dedicated and enthusiastic professional soldier, he was always willing to come forward with his ideas and his solutions.

"He was a highly professional soldier, but his quiet nature and humility meant he always deflected credit back on to fellow members of his company."

Lance-Cpl McDonald joined the Army in May 1999 and was posted to the 1st RAR.

He completed his first overseas tour in East Timor between 2000 and 2001, returning another three times to the fledgling nation.

The 30-year-old completed his first tour of Afghanistan in 2009.

Pte Galagher was on his second tour of Afghanistan.

His first was also in 2009.

Born in the small north-west NSW cotton town of Wee Waa, Pte Galagher is survived by partner Jessie, parents Wayne and Sally and sister Elanor.

"Pte Galagher always put in 110 per cent in every thing he did," the department said. "He had a 'can-do' attitude, always wanting to get the job done and taking everything in his stride.

"He was an enthusiastic, young soldier who was very well respected by his mates from the regiment."

Prime Minister Julia Gillard said that she had not yet spoken to the families of the dead soldiers.

"Ultimately, this is all about the families' wishes," she said.

"Ordinarily the chief would speak to the family at the appropriate point and then following that, if they wish to receive a call from me, then I certainly make it."

The families will decide whether there are private funerals for each soldier or ceremonies to be attended by Ms Gillard, Opposition Leader Tony Abbott and defence chief Gen. David Hurley.