Prime Minister Tony Abbott said Australian soldiers must ''of necessity suspend their humanity ... [and] do dark and dire things'' while honouring a soldier killed in Afghanistan at the Australian War Memorial on Thursday morning.
He was opening Poppy’s, formerly the Terrace Cafe at the AWM, which has been renamed in honour of Trooper David ''Poppy'' Pearce.
Trooper Pearce, who had joined the army in his late 30s, was affectionately known as “Poppy” by his much younger comrades because of his age.
In 2007, shortly after he was killed, his mates redeveloped the cafe area at their base in Tarin Kowt and named it Poppy’s in his honour.
''The interesting thing about Australian soldiers, about Australian warriors, is that they never lose their humanity,'' Mr Abbott said.
''[But] we need to acknowledge soldiers in the field have to, of necessity, suspend their humanity. They suspend their humanity in order to preserve our humanity.
''Even in the midst of a war zone it is important to gather from time to time with your mates and to be human.''
Mr Abbott said this was one of the things that characterised Trooper Pearce, whose widow, Nicole, and the couple’s two daughters had travelled to Canberra for the ceremony.
''He loved to be with his mates, he was great company, he loved them and they loved him. And that’s why they chose to name the place where they gathered to talk, to relax, to think of home, Poppy’s Cafe.''
Mrs Pearce said her husband had been a ''one of a kind'' who could never be replaced.
''A lot of people looked up to him and they honoured him and that’s obviously why his name is Poppy. He didn’t find it offensive; he actually felt proud to be called Poppy.''
She hopes the cafe, which Australian War Memorial director Brendan Nelson said also paid homage to the poppies of remembrance, would be a place of reflection.
''I think visitors [to the AWM cafe] should remember not only Poppy but every loved one, every soldier that has been killed. There have been 41 now,'' she said.
Trooper Pearce was killed on October 8, 2007, when the Australian Light Armoured Vehicle in which he had been travelling struck an improvised explosive device only days into his first tour of Afghanistan.
The 41-year-old had spent four years in the Army Reserve before transferring to the Australian Regular Army in July 2006.
''There is only one Dave, there will never be another one,'' Mrs Pearce said. ''He was a very unique person. A good father, a good husband, a good mate, a good brother, a good uncle. He was a very loyal, loyal person. He’d put his life on the line before he would see anyone else get hurt. And he was protective of us, very much so, and I can imagine what he would have been like out on the field.
''There was no question of us holding him back; he loved what he was doing and that was what he did. That is a comfort; knowing that this is his legacy [and] about how he fell.''