Soldier died 'doing what he loved' David Ronald Pearce, or Poppy to his fellow diggers, was a loving father, a respected leader, and above all, a good mate. In a funeral that temporarily halted an election campaign, hundreds of mourners - including Prime Minister John Howard and Labor leader Kevin Rudd, accompanied by their wives - packed Brisbane's St Stephen's Cathedral to farewell Trooper Pearce. The 41-year-old Gold Coast father-of-two was killed by a roadside bomb while driving a light armoured vehicle in Afghanistan's Oruzgan Province early last week. A member of the Reconstruction Task Force, he was the first soldier to be killed by direct enemy action in the current Australian deployment to Afghanistan and Iraq. Trooper Pearce enlisted in the army in 2002 and was known among his colleagues as Poppy, as he was almost double the age of most of those in his Brisbane-based 2nd/14th Light Horse Regiment. Trooper Pearce's older brother Edward Pearce told mourners, the two had often spoken about the risks of overseas military service. "I had spoken to David on many occasions about the risk of service in Iraq and Afghanistan," Mr Pearce said. "In our discussions I asked 'What do I tell them if you don't come back?' "He said 'Tell them I am not being sent, I want to go, I'm doing what I want to do'." Mr Pearce asked that his brother's death not be "sensationalised", as he died doing what he lived for. "David loved his family," Mr Pearce said. "He loved his wife Nicole, he loved his daughters Stephanie and Hannah. They meant everything to him. "His other love was the army. He lived for it. He loved the physical fitness and his passion for discipline, and enjoyed the mateship that only a digger can understand." Commanding officer of the 2nd/14th Light Horse Regiment, Lieutenant Colonel Chris Websdane, paid tribute to Trooper Pearce's invaluable leadership and the lessons he taught his young colleagues. "David was highly regarded by those closest to him," Lt Col Websdane said. "They knew when the time came they could depend on Poppy to be there for them." Before the service - which also was attended by Defence Minister Brendan Nelson, defence force chief Air Chief Marshall Angus Houston and army chief General Peter Leahy - former Manly Sea Eagles player Ben Kennedy and his wife Emma placed a Manly scarf and jersey alongside a photo of the fallen soldier at the front of the cathedral. Kennedy was Trooper Pearce's favourite player for his beloved NRL team, and attended the service at the request of the Pearce family and the trooper's army mates. Trooper Pearce's coffin, draped in the Australian flag and carrying a slouch hat, was carried into the cathedral by members of his former units, accompanied by Amazing Grace on the bagpipes. Mourners watched a video montage of family and army photos from Trooper Pearce's life on screens mounted inside the church, to the tune of John Williamson's True Blue. Trooper Pearce's widow Nicole was presented with the flag and slouch hat, with her daughters Stephanie, 11, and Hannah, six, by her side. Outside the church an emotional Ms Pearce received a warm hug from Mr Howard, while Mr Rudd and the remaining members of the official party also offered their condolences. Mr Rudd told reporters later that Trooper Pearce had made an extraordinary contribution to the country. "We honour his service, we honour his sacrifice and we honour his family, all of whom displayed great courage at an extraordinarily moving service today," he said. A private ceremony for Trooper Pearce's family was held later in the day, where he was finally laid to rest.