PHOTOS: DEPARTMENT OF NATIONAL DEFENCE
For the first time in Canadian history, the Star of Military Valour and the Medal of Military Valour have been awarded to soldiers of the Canadian Forces.
The Canadian military valour awards were created in 1993 and consist of the Victoria Cross, the Star of Military Valour and the Medal of Military Valour. The Victoria Cross was originally created by Queen Victoria and has previously been awarded to Canadians by Britain. When Canada created its own valour awards, a Canadian Victoria Cross was established but has not yet been awarded to anyone.
The four soldiers received their awards for actions taken during their recent tours in Kandahar Province, Afghanistan. The Star of Military Valour is Canada’s second highest award for valour, second only to the Victoria Cross. It was awarded to Sergeant Patrick Tower of Edmonton for distinguished and valiant service in the presence of the enemy.
The Medal of Military Valour is the third-highest award in the honours system and it is awarded for an act of valour or devotion to duty in the presence of the enemy. Three soldiers received this award. They are Sergeant Michael Thomas Victor Denine of Edmonton, Master Corporal Collin Ryan Fitzgerald of Shilo, Man., and Morrisburg, Ont., and Private Jason Lamont of Edmonton and Greenwood, N.S.
Governor General Michaëlle Jean announced the awards during a ceremony at Rideau Hall in late October.
Chief of Defence Staff General Rick Hillier said shortly after the ceremony, this is certainly a significant milestone in Canadian military history. “Today is a great, proud and historic day for the Canadian Forces and for Canada,” said Hillier. “These are among the very highest honours we have to offer for those who show courage in the presence of the enemy. More than that, this is also a first. Today is the very first time these awards have been given–the first time the high standard has been met–since they were created some 14 years ago.
“You need only to read the citations for these soldiers to understand the meaning of true heroism: running across open terrain under heavy enemy fire to give aid to wounded and stranded comrades; clearing burning vehicles from a roadway under fire to allow others to get to safety; taking exceptional and resourceful measures under the worst possible pressure to suppress enemy fire and save the lives of fellow soldiers.”
As Hillier said, the citations tell the story. They follow in their entirety.
Sgt. Tower is recognized for valiant actions taken on Aug. 3, 2006, in the Pashmul region of Afghanistan.
Following an enemy strike against an outlying friendly position that resulted in numerous casualties, Sgt. Tower assembled the platoon medic and a third soldier and led them across 150 metres of open terrain, under heavy enemy fire, to render assistance.
On learning that the acting platoon commander had perished, Sgt. Tower assumed command and led the successful extraction of the force under continuous small arms and rocket-propelled grenade fire. Sgt. Tower’s courage and selfless devotion to duty contributed directly to the survival of the remaining platoon members.
Sgt. Denine deployed with 8 Platoon, C Company, 1 Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry during Operation Archer in Afghanistan. On May 17, 2006, while sustaining concentrated rocket-propelled grenade, machine-gun and small arms fire, the main cannon and the machine- gun on his light armoured vehicle malfunctioned.
Under intense enemy fire, he recognized the immediate need to suppress the enemy fire and exited the air sentry hatch to man the pintle-mounted machine-gun. Completely exposed to enemy fire, he laid down a high volume of suppressive fire, forcing the enemy to withdraw. Sgt. Denine’s valiant action ensured mission success and likely saved the lives of his crew.
M.Cpl. Fitzgerald deployed with 5 Platoon, B Company, 1 PPCLI Battle Group in Afghanistan. He is recognized for outstanding selfless and valiant actions carried out on May 24, 2006, during an ongoing enemy ambush involving intense, accurate enemy fire. M.Cpl. Fitzgerald repeatedly exposed himself to enemy fire by entering and re-entering a burning platoon vehicle and successfully driving it off the roadway, permitting the remaining vehicles trapped in the enemy zone to break free.
M.Cpl. Fitzgerald’s courageous and completely selfless actions were instrumental to his platoon’s successful egress and undoubtedly contributed to saving the lives of his fellow platoon members.
Pte. Lamont deployed with the Health Support Services Company, 1 PPCLI Battle Group during Operation Archer. On July 13, 2006, an element of the reconnaissance platoon came under heavy enemy fire from a compound located in Helmand Province, Afghanistan, and was isolated from the rest of the platoon. During the firefight, another soldier was shot while attempting to withdraw back to the firing line and was unable to continue. Without regard for his personal safety, Pte. Lamont, under concentrated enemy fire and with no organized suppression by friendly forces, sprinted through open terrain to administer first aid. Pte. Lamont’s actions demonstrated tremendous courage, selflessness and devotion to duty.