'I love you to the moon and back daddy': The fathers taken too soon

Photo:Twitter/RFS
Photo:Twitter/RFS 

It's an image we won't forget - the toddler son of fallen firefighter, Geoffrey Keaton, receiving one of his father's Bravery and Service medals from NSW Rural Fire Service Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons on Thursday at Mr Keaton's funeral.

With a dummy in his mouth, and wearing a tiny RFS uniform, the photo of 19-month-old Harvey has captured the grief of a nation struggling to comprehend the enormity of the devastation the fires have wrought.

And what the aftermath looks like for those affected by the tragedy.

"I Love you to the moon and back, daddy," read a coffee mug atop the coffin at Mr Keaton's service on Thursday.

Mr Keaton, 32, died on 19 December when his fire truck rolled while battling the large Green Wattle Creek blaze near the town of Buxton.

But tragically, he isn't the only young father we've lost in recent weeks as the fires have devastated communities around the country.

Mr Keaton's friend, Andrew O'Dwyer, 36, died in the same accident, also leaving behind a young child.

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Samuel McPaul, 28, a member of the Morven Rural Fire Brigade, was killed fighting fires on the Victoria-NSW border on Monday evening. He was to become a dad with his wife, Megan, in May this year.

"The young couple were in the midst of preparations to welcome their baby and Megan is now facing parenthood without Samuel," the RFS writes on a fundraising site established for the families.

"Our collective hearts are breaking."

As a country, our collective hearts are breaking too, for these men, these dads, these life-partners taken far too soon.

Little ones, we weep for you.

Our hearts break knowing you will never know your fathers, that they will never know you.

We ache for the milestones they'll miss, for first smiles and laughter and steps. For kisses and hugs and the fierce love of parenthood.

For birthdays and first days of school and all the ups and down your young lives will bring.

And for your beautiful brave mummies who face life, and parenthood, without their loves

There are no words, none, just a grief that's raw and deep and raging.

But little ones please know this: your fathers are heroes. They're incredible, courageous, men who gave their lives to save the lives of others - and they won't be forgotten.

We thank them, we grieve for them, we remember them - and we hold you in our hearts.

For details of how to make donations to the firefighters' families please click here.