March 22, 2011

Funeral of Scottish dog handler killed in Afghanistan brings town to a standstill

Daily Record Mar 22 2011

AN ARMY dog handler killed in Afghanistan was hailed as a "hero" and "the best brother you could ask for" as hundreds of mourners gathered for his funeral today.

Lance Corporal Liam Tasker, 26, of the Royal Army Veterinary Corps, was shot dead on March 1 while on patrol with his springer spaniel Theo.

The sniffer dog, described as a "true friend" to the soldier, died hours later after suffering a seizure, with L/Cpl Tasker's family believing Theo died from a broken heart.

Several hundred people packed into Tayport Parish Church, Fife, and lined the streets outside to pay their respects to the arms explosive search (AES) handler from Kirkcaldy.

During the funeral, L/Cpl Tasker's tearful brother Ian recalled fond memories of the soldier.

His voice quaking with emotion, he told mourners: "Liam was the best brother, son, grandson and indeed friend you could ask for."

Lieutenant Colonel David Thorpe, commanding officer of the 1st Military Working Dog Regiment, paid his own tribute during the military funeral.

He described L/Cpl Tasker as a "natural dog man" who displayed an "uncanny empathy" with the animals during his training.

"It was obvious to all who encountered him that he would be a rising star in the veterinary corps," he said.

"It was as a AES handler that L/Cpl Tasker's talent really came to the fore.

"It is clear that the pride he took in his job came from the love he had for the dogs he worked with."

Lt Col Thorpe also spoke of the dog handler's love for his family and friends and described him as a "brave, loyal and strong" soldier.

He told mourners: "He was able to utilise all his skills and lead from the front as an example to us all.

"He saved the lives of his friends and colleagues on numerous occasions.

"He was a hero. He knew that he could be and he knew that he was, but he would never tell you himself."

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