Friday, January 16, 2009
THOSE FEW THOSE BRAVE FEW
Disregarded his own safety to save another ... Trooper Mark Donaldson, pictured with his wife (top) and with 1969 Victoria Cross recipient Keith Payne
THE VICTORIA CROSS is awarded for
“ ... most conspicuous bravery, or some daring or pre-eminent act of valour or self-sacrifice, or extreme devotion to duty in the presence of the enemy"
"The Victoria Cross (VC) is the highest military decoration awarded for valour "in the face of the enemy" to members of the armed forces, It takes precedence over all other orders, decorations and medals. It may be awarded to a person of any rank in any service and civilians under military command."
In these days of self absorbed, feathered beded child-men, the Stump wonders how many of us would be found wanting when time comes..At least there is still room for us to admire the few:
"The first Australian soldier to be awarded the Victoria Cross in 40 years does not see himself as a hero.
Trooper Mark Donaldson, 29, says all soldiers are heroes.
The Special Air Service (SAS) soldier was presented the award for his rescue of a coalition forces interpreter from heavy fire in Oruzgan Province in Afghanistan in September.
He said the award was overwhelming and a great honour but it would not change who he was.
"I'm still Mark Donaldson, and we'll keep going from day to day and we'll see how we go," he told reporters after receiving the award on Friday.
"I don't see myself as a hero, honestly.
"I still see myself as a soldier first and foremost."
But Prime Minister Kevin Rudd begs to differ.
He said Trooper Donaldson had joined the list of Australian heroes.
"Generations of school children will now know of the story of Trooper Mark Donaldson," Mr Rudd said.
"It is a story of a hero, one which will be told in classrooms, workplaces and watering holes for many years to come."
"His feat under fire now becomes the stuff of Australian legend."
Trooper Donaldson, who is married and has one daughter, paid tribute to all Australian soldiers.
"Every single one of our soldiers that are there serving for the nation are heroes," he said.
The SAS soldier also became the first person to receive the Victoria Cross for Australia - the nation's highest military honour - established in 1991 to replace the Imperial VC awarded previously to 96 Australians since the Boer War in 1900.
Trooper Donaldson said he had not really thought about the danger when he went to rescue the stricken interpreter.
"I'm a soldier ... I'm trained to fight, that's what we do, it's instinct and it's natural and you don't really think about it at the time," he said.
"I just saw him there, I went over there and got him, that was it."
Trooper Donaldson said he understood the interpreter had made a full recovery.
He was touched to receive the medal, describing the ceremony as "quite emotional and quite overwhelming".
"It's very humbling and really makes you sit back and take a look at yourself."
Trooper Donaldson hopes to return to Afghanistan later this year.
He has not decided where to keep the medal, but "probably somewhere pretty safe".
Trooper Donaldson's wife says the hero has long been married to the army.
A beaming Emma Donaldson said she was proud of her husband.
"He was married to the army before he married me, and I support him all the way," she told reporters after the ceremony.
There were nervous moments being an army spouse, Ms Donaldson admitted.
"It has its moments, but I know what he's like as a person and I know the guys he works with and they train ridiculously hard all the time.
"So I have the utmost faith that they will all get back in some form or another."
When asked if she would tell her husband to be a little more careful on the battlefield in future, she laughed and said she couldn't ask that of him.
The couple, who live in Perth, have a young daughter Kaylee, who also attended Friday's ceremony.
The investiture at Government House, attended by Governor-General Quentin Bryce and the prime minister was told that on numerous occasions Trooper Donaldson deliberately drew enemy fire in order to allow wounded soldiers to be removed to safety.
"As the battle raged around him he saw that the coalition force interpreter was lying motionless on exposed ground," the governor-general's official secretary Stephen Brady told the gathering.
"With complete disregard for his own safety on his own initiative and alone, Trooper Donaldson ran back 80 metres across exposed ground to rescue the interpreter and carry him back to a vehicle.
"Trooper Donaldson then rejoined his patrol and then continued to engage the enemy while remaining exposed to heavy enemy fire."
Ms Bryce described Trooper Donaldson as an "inspiration".
"We gather around you to distinguish your actions, and to honour the individual they speak of, the person you are, your undertaking, your way of living," she said after the presentation.
"We are here to dedicate your contribution, your unconditional surrender to duty and humanity, your abandonment of your own necessity so that others may be secured."
"By your doing and knowing, you will shoulder more than most. You are the finest example and inspiration.
"Trooper Donaldson, VC, I salute you."
Defence force chief Angus Houston said Trooper Donaldson joined a band of brothers - only 10 VC winners are alive today - so admired for their valour.
"Victoria Cross recipients are at the very core of the ethos of which our military identity has been forged," Air Chief Marshal Houston said.
"We in the modern Australian Defence Force, strive to live up to the heroism, and the values of the Victoria Cross recipients that have gone before us."
In keeping with military protocol the air chief marshall saluted Trooper Donaldson.
"As the highest ranking member of the defence force, there has been no current serving member that I salute, until now," he said.
"Tradition holds that even the most senior officer will salute a Victoria Cross recipient as a mark of the utmost respect for their act of valour."
Opposition Leader Malcolm Turnbull said Trooper Donaldson stood in a great line of courageous soldiers who had won the Victoria Cross.
"You have been in the front line of the battle for freedom, the battle against terrorism, a battle we cannot lose and we will not lose because of brave men like you," he said.
"As the prime minister said, there is no greater honour than wearing the uniform you wear today, serving this nation, and that is why we thank you from the bottom of our heart."