With the recent awarding of the British Victoria Cross to a young UK soldier, it's time we reflected on the efforts of our servicemen in recent conflicts. With the 90th Anniversay of Gallipolli just 5 weeks away, let's look on the lengths men will go to under the extreme stresses of war.

United Kingdom
Private Johnson Gideon Beharry VC
Pte Beharry receives the Victoria Cross for two separate acts of outstanding gallantry of the highest order whilst based in Al Amarah, Maysan Province, Iraq, in 2004.

In the first incident on 1 May 2004, Pte Beharry was driving the Platoon Commander’s Warrior armoured vehicle that had been called to the assistance of a foot patrol caught in a series of ambushes. The Warrior vehicle was hit by multiple rocket propelled grenades, causing damage and resulting in the loss of radio communications. The platoon commander, the vehicle’s gunner and a number of other soldiers in the vehicle were injured. Pte Beharry showed initiative and great courage driving through the ambush, taking his own crew and leading five other Warriors to safety. He then demonstrated outstanding bravery by extracting his wounded colleagues from the vehicle, all the time exposed to further enemy fire. He is cited on this occasion for “valour of the highest order”.

Whilst back on duty on 11 June 2004, Pte Beharry was again driving the lead Warrior vehicle of his platoon through Al Amarah when this vehicle was ambushed. A rocket propelled grenade hit the vehicle and Pte Beharry received serious head injuries. Other rockets hit the vehicle incapacitating his commander and injuring several of the crew. Despite his very serious injuries, from which he is still recovering, Pte Beharry showed great strength of character, taking control of his vehicle and driving it out of the ambush area before losing consciousness. His citation reads:

“For his repeated extreme gallantry and unquestioned valour, despite intense direct attacks, personal injury and damage to his vehicle in the face of relentless enemy action, Private Beharry deserves the highest possible recognition.”

Pte Beharry made a split second decision that saved the lives of his crew and other members of his unit. He didn't get taught these skills. It's not something they go over in basic training. No lecture can give you the tips. Hard decisions under extreme conditions. Will the Iraqi people shake his hand in 20 years or the anti-war protestors?

United States of America
Sgt. 1st Class Paul R. Smith
Sgt Paul Smith is shortly to be awarded the US Congressional Medal of Honor, the highest award for exceptional bravery in the US military. The first to be awarded since 1993, Sgt Paul Smith's last battle was a minor event in the entire Iraq war. Sgt Paul Smith had been to the Gulf in 1991 and returned a changed man. He became the soldier's soldier. A perfectionist in training, he instilled teamwork and discipline into his men, and that sense of duty kept his men alive on that day in Iraq when Paul Smith gave his all for his men.

An outstanding outline of this man's life and the actions that lead up to his nomination for the US Medal of Honor is at this site. Take the time to read about Paul Smith. Imagine yourself in his dusty boots, the sounds of battle around you, and knowing that how you react over the following minutes decides the fate of the men you lead. Look through his eyes. Could you have done the same?

A history of the US Medal of Honor and it's recipients can be found here.

Special Air Service Trooper (name withheld)
For acts of gallantry in action in hazardous circumstances in Iraq while on Operation FALCONER.

Trooper X’s patrol was tasked with clearing an Iraqi installation, to prevent it being used for the command and control of Iraqi theatre ballistic missiles. Trooper X was the machine gunner in the exposed .50 Calibre mounting ring in his patrol vehicle. During the action, an enemy special operations force of two vehicles and up to 20 heavily armed personnel engaged the SAS patrol. Whilst in contact with numerically superior enemy forces, Trooper X’s actions in destroying the enemy vehicles gave the Australian force the freedom of movement to complete the mission.

In a hazardous situation and under fire, Trooper X immediately engaged and destroyed the first enemy vehicle with his Javelin missile system. Having limited the enemy’s ability to manoeuvre, the patrol assaulted forward and Trooper X engaged a further Iraqi position located to the south with his machine gun. Trooper X re-engaged the enemy with his machine gun, demonstrating great composure.

Trooper X then re-engaged and destroyed the second enemy vehicle with the Javelin, dispersing nearby enemy soldiers who were setting up a mortar position. Subsequently, as the patrol closed on the enemy position, Trooper X engaged a mortar tube with his sniper rifle, hitting the tube with his first round and causing the weapon to explode. At this stage individual enemy started to surrender, creating a situation where surrendering soldiers were intermingled with other enemy who were still engaging the SAS patrol. Trooper X then judiciously placed well aimed shots within close proximity of the enemy that were still engaging from concealed positions, forcing them to surrender.

Throughout this engagement, Trooper X demonstrated skills and composure of the highest standard. He acted with very little direction and his decisions and subsequent actions had significant impacts on the outcome of the engagement. His actions in destroying the enemy vehicles gave the Australian assaulting forces freedom of movement and put the Iraqi forces under immediate pressure. Fort he entire engagement, Trooper X was subject to enemy fire passing close overhead. He readily accepted the personal danger and disregarded his own safety while acquiring the enemy vehicles with the Javelin. His conduct whilst in a hazardous situation in contact with numerically superior enemy forces was most gallant and led to the success of the action.

Trooper X’s acts of gallantry played a crucial role in gaining the initiative for his patrol and defeating an aggressive enemy force. His actions contributed significantly to the Coalition’s strategic success in denying Iraq the use of their theatre ballistic missiles. His performance brings great credit to the SAS Regiment, the Australian Army and the Australian Defence Force.

More information on Australia's Honours and Awards system can be found here.

A soldier uses 3 weapon systems to selectively engage opposition forces. Cool, deliberate actions of a highly trained professional. Yet, this man made these decisions independently and with little orders. What drives a man such as this? Love of his country, or his mates? Will the public ever realise the strength of character of their defenders?

Three soldiers. Two living, one dead. Three men who put themselves in harm's way for a reason. Their belief that they were contributing in some manner to a better world. Let their contributions not be in vain. Next time you see people in free countries protesting against war, ask them what they have done for the cause of freedom recently.

To the fallen. Lest we forget.

Crossposted at Bastards Inc.

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