Fallen Australian engineer Corporal Richard Atkinson was farewelled from Afghanistan overnight in a moving memorial service at Multi-National Base Tarin Kot.
Corporal Atkinson was remembered by his mates and work colleagues, including Commander Joint Task Force 633 Major-General Angus Campbell, before beginning the long journey home to his family and friends in Australia.
In an emotional and stirring eulogy, Officer Commanding Mentoring Task Force – Two’s Combat Team Charlie, Major David French, spoke of Corporal Atkinson’s cheeky nature and quick wit as well as his dedication to his job and his professionalism in always leading from the front.
“Akka was never happier than when he was on the job and he was bloody good at it,” Major French said. He described the partnered Afghan National Army and Australian foot patrol through the Tangi Valley where Corporal Atkinson’s team of engineers located the Improvised Explosive Device. As was his style as a leader and skilled engineer, Corporal Atkinson and a fellow Sapper went forward to inspect the device.
Major French spoke on behalf of the men of Combat Team Charlie who farewelled Corporal Atkinson, described as their brother in arms, as an excellent young engineer, a funny bloke, an awesome friend, beloved son, brother and fiancé.
“So farewell Digger. While we mourn and miss you here, others who have gone before you will welcome you to the fold. Travel safely mate, we miss you.” Corporal Atkinson’s casket was then escorted to the RAAF C-130 aircraft through a kilometer-long honour guard of soldiers and civilian contractors from Australia, Afghanistan, the United States, Singapore, Slovakia and the Netherlands.
Before the official service, the close-knit group of soldiers from Corporal Atkinson’s home unit, the 1st Combat Engineer Regiment, spent time with their mate in a private service. The grief and sorrow was clearly apparent on the faces of these young men who each day search for, and find, Improvised Explosive Devices.
Best mate and fellow engineer, Corporal David Myers, spoke of Corporal Atkinson’s professionalism and commitment to his job and his love of his family.
“Words will never do justice to describe the kind of mate ‘Akka’ was. He would want to be remembered by us with a smile on our faces and laughter in our hearts,” he said.
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