In life, they were united in their tireless work saving countless British soldiers in Afghanistan. In death, they were united in tragedy.
UK DAILY MAIL –Shortly after Lance Corporal Liam Tasker was killed in a firefight with the Taliban, his devoted Army search dog Theo suffered a seizure and passed away too.
The pair had uncovered 14 home-made bombs and hoards of weapons in just five months – a record for a dog and his handler in the conflict. L/Cpl Tasker, 26, this week became the 358th British serviceman to die in the ten-year conflict.
Only last month he described his joy at the close bond he had developed with Theo, a 22-month-old springer spaniel cross. ‘I love my job and working together with Theo. He has a great character and never tires,’ he said in an interview on the Ministry of Defence website. ‘He can’t wait to get out and do his job and will stop at nothing.’
Theo and L/Cpl Tasker, an Arms and Explosives Search dog handler of the Royal Army Veterinary Corps, 1st Military Working Dog Regiment, were part of the Theatre Military Working Dogs Support Unit based at Camp Bastion.
On Tuesday they took part in a mission in the Nahr-e Saraj district in Helmand, a hotbed of the insurgency. Theo’s task was to be the ‘front man’, sniffing out any hidden IEDs, weapons and bomb-making equipment. But a firefight broke out with the Taliban and L/Cpl Tasker was shot dead. After his body was flown back to Camp Bastion, his beloved Theo is thought to have died of a broken heart.
The soldier, from Kirkcaldy, Fife, leaves behind mother Jane Duffy, father Ian Tasker, brother Ian, sisters Laura and Nicola and girlfriend Leah Walters. In a statement, his family said: ‘There are three words that best describe Liam: larger than life. He lit up every room he walked into with his cheeky smile.
‘He died a hero doing a job he was immensely passionate about. We are so proud of him and everything he’s achieved. Words can’t describe how sorely he will be missed.’
Miss Walters added: ‘LT never met anyone without touching their lives in some way. I am the proudest girlfriend there could ever be and there will be an LT-sized hole in my life forever. Sleep well, my darling, my soulmate, my best friend.’
Lieutenant Colonel David Thorpe, commanding officer 1st Military Working Dog Regiment, also paid tribute to L/Cpl Tasker, saying: ‘He genuinely loved the dogs he worked with and was always able to get the best out of them.
‘Epitomising the hard-working, determined and ambitious nature of our very best soldiers, he wanted to go to Afghanistan. He wanted to ply his trade in the harshest of environments, to be outside of his comfort zone and he wanted to be successful. He was. ‘The work he did in his five months in Afghanistan saved countless lives, of that I have no doubt.’
Major Caroline Emmett, Officer Commanding 104 Military Working Dog Squadron, said: ‘L/Cpl Tasker was one of the best people I have ever known. Kind, with a good heart, he always put others before himself. He and his dog Theo were made for each other.’