The Afghan war is not over yet
THE end of the Afghan war came two years too late for Linda and Don Birt.
Yesterday, as Australians heard Prime Minister Tony Abbott announce the end of Australia's longest running armed conflict, Mr and Mrs Birt were preparing to mark the second anniversary of the death in action of their soldier son Ashley.
"It's not over yet," Mrs Birt said of the post-war reconstruction effort now underway in Afghanistan. "We still have a lot of mentoring to do."
And it is not over yet for the families of the dead and for all the troops and their families who have suffered the horror of war.
"My hope is that Mr Abbott has put aside money for helping all the soldiers when they return with post traumatic stress."
Mr and Mrs Birt spent the day with Ashley's comrades at his old base, 1 TOPO, at Enoggera in Brisbane, before dining with their son and Ashley's brother, Dale.
Mrs Birt's official job for the day was to present the winner's trophy after the Ash Birt Memorial Fitness Test, held at his old army base.
"PLEASE God, that is my only wish," Linda Birt wrote on Facebook, in response to a call to bring the soldiers home from Afghanistan.
"I don't want any more families to go through what we have. It is so so hard losing a loved one so young."
Prime Minister Tony Abbott's announcement of war's end was partly an answer to that prayer.
It was also an early Christmas gift, after Mrs Birt even posted a letter to Santa on her Facebook page.
"They deserve to be with their families for Christmas," she wrote.
"Ashley's dead and he's a hero and so are the other 39 who will never come home alive. But it is important to us that the Government will bring home most of the troops by Christmas.
"They're all heroes too and they will all need help with post traumatic stress disorder.
"Mr Abbott has to find the money."
And, she said, families like the Birts suffer too. "Every year we get so much publicity. It's really hard, but we're with family and friends today.
"It doesn't matter what else the Government has to spend money on or how hard times are. He's got to find a way to help the soldiers.
"Families like ours suffer every day of the year. We just take another step forward each day."
As Mrs Birt summed up on Facebook: "Sometimes memories sneak out of my eyes and roll down my cheeks".