While a number of Victoria Cross medals have been awarded to Canadians over the decades, many are lamenting the fact that none have been awarded the purely Canadian version of the medal created in 1993.
The military says that while it handed out more bravery medals per capita than Canada's allies did during the Afghan mission, no single act by a Canadian soldier unquestionably met the "extremely rare standard" needed for the highest honour.
Canada is alone among its major allies in not having honoured any military member with its most prestigious medal. Many with ties to the military community — including former Conservative leader Erin O'Toole — wonder if the VC has been put out of reach for soldiers, sailors and aircrew today.
It's a personal matter for some former soldiers.
"It was always kind of stuck in the back of our minds. It just didn't feel right that nobody got the VC, [that] everyone else gave one out," said retired corporal Bruce Moncur, who was gravely wounded when an American ground attack jet accidently strafed Canadian troops in Afghanistan at the start of the milestone 2006 battle known as Operation Medusa.
More than 40,000 Canadian military members took part in the Afghan campaign — Canada's longest-ever overseas military campaign. For many of them, the fact that no Canadian who fought in Afghanistan has ever received the VC leaves them feeling as though their war, their devotion and sacrifice, somehow didn't quite measure up.
"We do feel forgotten. We do feel that our sacrifices are being brushed under the rug, and we do feel as if, you know, there's so many elements of us that just get overlooked," said Moncur. He pointed out that while Canadians mark notable First and Second World War events — even heroic, bloody defeats like Dieppe in 1942 — "we don't commemorate the anniversaries of what we just did" in this generation's war.
"As somebody that fought in Afghanistan, as somebody that bled and got shot, I am outraged by the fact that a lot of the guys did not get their proper respect and dues for what they did over there. It's literally — quite literally — the least they could do," said Moncur.
While Canada did not award its modern version of the Victoria Cross for actions in Afghanistan, it did present a host of lesser awards, including 18 Stars of Military Valour (the second-highest designation), 89 other bravery medals and more than 300 "mentions in dispatches" — an official written report to command headquarters describing an individual soldier's gallant conduct.
Moncur and a group of other veterans — including retired general Rick Hillier, the former chief of the defence staff — have waged a tireless campaign to get one or more of the military stars of valour awarded in Afghanistan upgraded to a Victoria Cross.
The British awarded three VCs in Afghanistan and one in the Iraq War. The most recent was presented in 2015 to Lance Cpl. Joshua Leakey, of 1st Battalion The Parachute Regiment, for an action in 2013.
The Australians, slightly more generous, handed out four VCs, mostly to their special forces. The Victoria Cross for New Zealand has been awarded only once — to Cpl. Willie Apiata, also a special forces soldier, for bravery under fire in Afghanistan in 2004.
Since 2001, the U.S. has awarded its VC equivalent — the Medal of Honor — to 20 of its soldiers for actions in Afghanistan. Five of them received the award posthumously.
The last time Canada awarded its top medal for military gallantry was during the Second World War. Lt. Robert Hampton Gray — who died attacking a Japanese warship in 1945, days before the war ended — was the last recipient. Up until his death in 2005, Pte. Ernest "Smokey" Smith was the last living Canadian VC recipient; he received the medal for action in Italy in 1944.
In total, 99 Victoria Crosses have been awarded to Canadians or Canadian-born citizens serving with Commonwealth forces. They were all awarded back when the British still administered the medal on behalf of Commonwealth nations.
The Canadian version of the VC was created in 1993. The actual medal was not struck until 2008.
So what does a Canadian soldier have to do today to win the Victoria Cross?
To read the complete article, see:
'The least they could do': Veterans push Canada to award its first Victoria Cross
Wayne Homren, Editor
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