PHOTOS: M.CPL. ISSA PARÉ, RIDEAU HALL
For only the second time in Canadian military history, the Star of Military Valour has been awarded to a Canadian Forces soldier. The second highest award in the Canadian inventory was presented to Major William Hilton Fletcher by Governor General Michaëlle Jean in a ceremony in Ottawa in February. Fletcher earned the award for repeated bravery under fire in Afghanistan from January to August 2006.
The first Star of Military Valour was awarded late last year to Sergeant Patrick Tower of Edmonton for his actions under fire in Afghanistan in August 2006 (Valour Of Four Soldiers Recognized, January/February). Tower and Fletcher received their medals together at a ceremony held at the Chateau Laurier in downtown Ottawa. The Star of Military Valour is second only to the Victoria Cross, the Canadian version of which has not yet been awarded.
In addition to Fletcher’s medal, it was announced that three Canadian soldiers–Captain Derek Prohar, Corporal John David Makela and Maj. Michael Charles Wright–would receive the Medal of Military Valour.
The three military valour decorations–the Victoria Cross, the Star of Military Valour and the Medal of Military Valour–were created by Queen Elizabeth II on Jan. 1, 1993. The Victoria Cross is awarded for the most conspicuous bravery, a daring or pre-eminent act of valour or self-sacrifice, or extreme devotion to duty, in the presence of the enemy. The Star of Military Valour is awarded for distinguished and valiant service in the presence of the enemy. The Medal of Military Valour is awarded for an act of valour or devotion to duty in the presence of the enemy.
The citations for each of the four awards appear below, in full.
As Officer Commanding C Company, Task Force Afghanistan, from January to August 2006, Fletcher repeatedly demonstrated extraordinary bravery by exposing himself to intense fire while leading his forces, on foot, to assault heavily defended enemy positions. On two occasions, the soldiers at his side were struck by enemy fire. He immediately rendered first aid and then continued to head the subsequent assaults. On these occasions and in ensuing combat actions, his selfless courage, tactical acumen and effective command were pivotal to the success of his company in defeating a determined opponent.
On Oct. 16, 2006, Makela prevented a fatal attack on his combat logistics patrol by a suicide bomber in Afghanistan. As the turret gunner providing overwatch for the convoy, he accurately identified the approaching suspicious vehicle as a suicide bomber car. Despite the likely potential of an explosion, he maintained his exposed position and applied fire, resulting in the premature detonation of the bomber car. The explosion engulfed Makela’s vehicle and seriously burned him. His valiant and courageous actions inevitably prevented the bomber from reaching his intended target and saved the lives of the other soldiers in the convoy.
Assigned as liaison officer with the United States Special Forces in Afghanistan during the battle at Sperwan Ghar, from Sept. 5 to 12, 2006, Prohar operated as the rear machine gunner on the battalion commander’s vehicle. He was wounded by an improvised explosive device during an intense enemy ambush. Despite his injuries, he continued returning fire and assisted the commander with the control of the attack, which resulted in the successful seizing of key terrain. Prohar’s courage and actions earned him the respect of the allied soldiers of the United States Special Forces.
On the night of Aug. 19, 2006, Maj. Wright of Alpha Company, Task Force Afghanistan, demonstrated outstanding courage and exceptional leadership in combat. Directed to move to the Panjwai District Centre to enhance security, his troops were rapidly engaged and encircled by a significantly larger enemy force. Under intense fire from small arms and rocket-propelled grenades coming from all directions, he refused reinforcements for safety reasons and led his embattled force to outmanoeuvre the enemy, inflicting serious enemy casualties. His courage and his leadership led to the defeat of a much larger enemy force without a single Canadian Forces casualty.