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Fiancee pays tribute to brave man
Lance-Cpl Mervyn McDonald and fiancee Rachael Sprigg-McKinnie.

The fiancee of fallen soldier Mervyn McDonald has revealed how they planned to marry next Easter and start a family.

Rachael Sprigg-McKinnie described Lance-Cpl McDonald as the "warmest guy you'd ever meet".

Ms Sprigg-McKinnie issued a statement ahead of the return of the bodies of the Carnarvon-born commando and four other Diggers to Australia.

The soldiers - including fellow West Australian Sapper James Martin - died in two separate incidents in Afghanistan in a 24-hour period last week. Lance-Cpl McDonald died when a helicopter crashed.

Ms Sprigg-McKinnie said when she first met Lance-Cpl McDonald she was struck by his smile.

"It was a beautiful, illuminating smile that betrayed his tough guy exterior," she said.

"Merv had an infectious personality and he was simply amazing, on a natural high and unlike anyone else I'd ever known. He had old-fashioned principles and was an absolute gentleman who knew how to treat a lady."

The couple had jammed a lot into their lives during their 18 months together, Ms Sprigg-McKinnie said.

"We were to be married in Bendigo next Easter Saturday and we were hoping to start a family soon after," she said. "Merv would have been a fantastic husband and a wonderful dad. He was a real Aussie bloke with a passion for his country, especially its natural splendour.

"But no place brought out Merv's magnificent smile like the west coast of Australia. He had a nomadic childhood in WA and crossing the border into his home State was always a special moment for Merv. His affection for WA was passionately extended to the West Coast Eagles footy club."

The last visit home two months ago had been bittersweet because his father had just died.

Ms Sprigg-McKinnie said Lance-Cpl McDonald loved the army.

"Even after several tours, he felt a real sense of duty and he was committed to sharing his experience with 2nd Commando Regiment," she said.

Family and friends pay their respects to Lance Corporal Mervyn McDonald at Richmond RAAF Base. Picture: CPL Christopher Dickson/1st Joint Public Affairs Unit