WA Digger McDonald farewelled
Merv McDonald planned to wed his fiancee Rachael Sprigg-McKinnie. Picture: Supplied

The WA Digger who was killed in a helicopter crash in Afghanistan last month has been farewelled at a funeral service in Perth.

Lance Corporal Mervyn McDonald, 30, was serving with the 2nd Commando Regiment when the Black Hawk he was in crashed in Helmand province on August 30.

He was on his sixth tour of Afghanistan in his twelfth year of army service and planned to wed his fiancee Rachael Sprigg-McKinnie in April next year.

Prime Minister Julia Gillard and Opposition Leader Tony Abbott attended the funeral at St Benedict’s Catholic Church in Applecross today.

Also paying their respects were Defence Minister Stephen Smith, Premier Colin Barnett, Defence Force chief General David Hurley, Army chief Lieutenant General David Morrison and Special Operations Commander Major General Gus Gilmore.

Born in Carnarvon, Lance Corporal McDonald was bestowed with several military honours and awards including for his service in East Timor.

He was again celebrated today as a highly experienced and respected soldier.

Commanding Officer of the 2nd Commando Regiment, Lieutenant Colonel B, spoke of Lance Corporal McDonald’s sense of duty, energy and enthusiasm, and said his peers considered him among the most professional members of his company and regiment.

“Merv would have wanted to be remembered as a quiet, hard-working, likeable bloke who got the job done no matter what it was,” Lieutenant Colonel B said.

“This was an understatement.”

His impact was wider than he could have imagined, Lieutenant Colonel B said.

Ms Sprigg-McKinnie said Lance Corporal McDonald loved the army and being a Digger.

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

“Words cannot express just how proud I am of the service he has given his mates and his country.”

Ms Sprigg-McKinnie spoke of his smile and a “special sparkle” in his eyes, describing him as “a real Aussie bloke with a passion for his country“, especially its beaches and the West Coast Eagles football club.

He made a point of stopping to “smell the coffee“, despite the pace of his life.

Lance Corporal McDonald is survived by his mother Myrna, stepfather Bernie and brothers Percy, Roger and Gary.

Ms Gillard and Mr Abbott will remain in Perth on Tuesday for the funeral of Sapper James Martin, one of three soldiers killed by a rogue Afghan soldier at a base in Oruzgan province on August 29.

Picture: Department of Defence

The West Australian

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