Briagolong, a rural village of 600 people in Gippsland, about 270km east of Melbourne, honoured one of its most popular sons and Australia’s first Iraq war fatal casualty at its Anzac Day commemorations.
Private Jake Kovco, a highly trained sniper and member of the 110-strong security detachment in Baghdad, died last Friday as a result of a single gunshot wound to the head from a pistol he was cleaning. His flag-draped coffin is due to be met by his family, Defence Minister Brendan Nelson and military chiefs in Melbourne on Thursday.
Friends and colleagues have described Private Kovco as an outstanding soldier, a fun-loving bushie and a loving father to four-year-old son Tyrie and baby daughter Alana. Defence chief Angus Houston announced an inquiry, to be headed by a civilian judge.
In Baghdad, soldiers from Australia, Britain and the US stood to attention as Private Kovco’s coffin, draped in an Australian flag, was loaded onto a Hercules transport. Private Kovco will be afforded a full military funeral.