Max treasures tales of the father he never knew
More than a decade has passed since Max Cashin was robbed of a childhood with his father, but the soon-to-be teenager knew his dad was right beside him as he ventured through the new territory of becoming a young man.
Max was just 22-days-old when his dad, Brendan Hurst, was killed in a roadside bomb near Baghdad in 2007. The former Townsville police officer was training a squad in Iraq when he was killed alongside a Townsville soldier, Justin Saint, who left behind two daughters.
The blast was set off by suspected al-Qaeda insurgents and their deaths sent shockwaves through their communities and families. Brendan and Justin were on their way to the airport to catch a flight home after the end of an eight-week rotation.
Max, who turns 13 on July 21, has no memories with his dad but said his life has been shaped by his father's legacy.
Endless stories told by almost everyone who knew Brendan kept the memories alive for Max, who wants to make his dad proud as he becomes a young adult.
"Friends everywhere say that he is that one guy that brings light to the rest of the room," he said.
"We talk about him a lot … if not every day, Mum and I talk about him every second day."
Brendan spent 18 years in the Queensland Police Force after graduating from the Townsville Police Academy, where he met Max's mum, Tanya Cashin.
When Tanya was first informed of Brendan's death, she refused to accept the news as the men had been killed in Iraq - not Dubai, where she believed Brendan was working.
That information turned out to be a lie he had told her to stop her worrying.
The strong mother and now Sunshine Coast detective played the roles of "mum and dad" for her son, with Max saying she was the most amazing parent and retold stories of Brendan for him to cherish.
Max's memories of those stories started when they were watching Brendan's police graduation ceremony.
"I kept asking mum, 'is that my dad's voice?'," he said. "We just started talking about dad and what happened. Everyone thinks that I'm a mini him."
Max had thought about pursuing a career in the military or police force, but as long as he was helping people he would be happy.
He said he was excited to take on life as a teenager and all the responsibility it held.
In the lead up to Anzac Day, Max's love for his dad flourished even more, but this year things were a little different.
Coronavirus restrictions meant most Anzac Day services were cancelled and residents were urged to have their own services at dawn.
Max had similar plans and would be out on his driveway. Max knew his dad would be there, like every year, and he would wear his dad's medals with pride.
Originally published as Boy treasures tales of father he never knew