THE body of a brave young soldier who died in Afghanistan 10 days ago has begun the heartbreaking journey back to his ‘spiritual home’ in north east Fife.
Lance Corporal Liam Tasker (26) was shot by the Taliban on March 1 while on patrol in Helmand province with his beloved companion Theo, a spaniel cross trained to sniff out explosives and bomb-making equipment.
Together the pair had located a record number of devices during their five months’ service and were credited with saving the lives of countless servicemen.
Though he survived the gunfire, Theo later suffered a seizure and died on the way back to Camp Bastion.
Relatives of the popular young man, described by colleagues as ‘a consummate professional,’ travelled from their homes in Tayport and Gauldry to RAF Lyneham in Wiltshire on Thursday for the arrival of his body.
Now they hope he’ll be buried with full military honours in his mum Jane Duffy’s home town of Tayport and that he will become the first soldier from the Afghanistan conflict to be honoured by having his name added to the town’s war memorial.
Theo, meanwhile, has been nominated for the Dickin Medal, the highest military honour that can be bestowed on an animal.
Poignantly, the dog’s ashes were to due to accompany his master’s body home yesterday, to be returned to the 104 Military Working Dog Squadron, where Liam was posted last year.
Liam’s uncle Billy McCord, who lives in Gauldry, explained that the traditional repatriation parade would be held through the streets of the market town of Wootton Bassett and the family expect to hear further news about the funeral arrangements within the next few days.
He said: “The family really hope Liam will be buried in Tayport as this is where he felt he had his roots.
“Coming from a military family he did a lot of moving around, but whenever he had leave this is where he came.
“Our family were all born and bred in the town and he regarded it as his spiritual home.”
Liam’s grandmother Janette McCord still lives in Tayport, as does another uncle, Richard, a Major in the Logistics Corps, who is currently based in Germany.
His mum Jane left the town to join the RAF and now lives in Belgium with her second husband Jimmy Duffy. Liam’s father, Ian Tasker, also lives in Belgium.
Liam joined the Army in 2001, initially as a mechanic with the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers.
His natural empathy with dogs soon shone through and he later transferred to the Royal Army Veterinary Corps, where he became greatly admired as a dog handler and trainer.
Mr McCord said: “The dogs are the main target for the Taliban as they are trained to sniff out their explosives, but obviously they have to be accompanied by their handler.
“Liam was killed by gunfire and Theo was with him when he died.
“The two of them are real heroes and deserve to be honoured.”
Liam also leaves a brother, Ian; two sisters, Laura and Nicola, and a girlfriend, Leah.
The family described him as ‘larger than life’ with a cheeky smile that could light up a room.
“He died a hero doing a job he was immensely passionate about”, they said.
“We are so proud of him and everything he had achieved.
“Words can’t describe how sorely he will be missed.”