The third Australian soldier awarded the Victoria Cross. Cpl Daniel Keighran, we salute you
Corporal Daniel Keighran wins Victoria Cross for Afghanistan courage
Corporal Daniel Keighran, centre, and his wife at the Victoria Cross award ceremony this morning. Picture: Kym Smith Source: The Australian
ROYAL Australian Regiment soldier Corporal Daniel Keighran has been awarded the Victoria Cross, Australia's highest military honour, in a ceremony this morning.
Corporal Keighran is from the RAR's 6th Battalion and not from the SAS, the first time that such an award in Afghanistan has been awarded to a regular soldier.
Today's VC, the 99th, is the third given to an Australian for action in Afghanistan.
Corporal Keighran was honoured for extraordinary courage on the battlefield in Afghanistan in 2010 as part of Mentoring Task Force One.
He was invested with the award this morning at Government House, with the Governor-General, the Prime Minister and the Opposition Leader attending along with military leaders and other dignitaries.
Corporal Keighran was awarded the medal by Governor-General Quentin Bryce "for the most conspicuous of gallantry and extreme devotion to duty'' during a firefight with insurgents in Oruzgan Province on August 24, 2010.
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Corporal Keighran exposed himself "with complete disregard for his own safety'', drawing fire multiple times to identify enemy locations when his patrol was engaged by numerically superior forces.
"During one of these occasions, when his patrol sustained a casualty, he again, on his own initiative and in an act of exceptional courage moved from his position of cover to deliberately draw fire away from the team who were treating the casualty,'' the official citation reads.
"Corporal Keighran remained exposed and under heavy fire in order to direct suppressing fire and then assist in the clearance of the landing zone to enable evacuation of the casualty.
"These deliberate acts of exceptional courage to repeatedly expose himself to accurate and intense enemy fire, thereby placing himself in grave danger, ultimately enabled the identification and suppression of enemy firing positions.
"In circumstances of great peril Corporal Keighran's actions were instrumental in permitting the withdrawal of the combined Australian and Afghan patrol with no further casualties.''
SAS Corporal Ben Roberts-Smith was Australia's last VC recipient, in 2011.
Corporal Roberts-Smith received the award for conspicuous gallantry shown while attacking Taliban machine gun positions in Afghanistan.
The ceremony was attended by past recipients Keith Payne (awarded for action in Vietnam in 1969) and Corporal Mark Donaldson (Afghanistan in 2008). Corporal Roberts-Smith was unable to be there but was represented by his wife, Emma.
Corporal Keighran enlisted in the army in 2000. In 2001, he was posted to the 6RAR, where he served as a rifleman in Delta Company. He later transferred to the Active Reserve in 2011.
Bestowing the award, Ms Bryce said Corporal Keighran was a soldier of "profound physical and moral strength''.
He had shown courage in the face of terror, and generosity in the face of suffering.
"You have pushed the bounds of human compassion...to a place unknown by most, and revered by all,'' she said.
"Your nation honours you.''
Julia Gillard paid tribute to Corporal Keighran, saying he represented the best of Australia.
"You did not put your personal safety first. You put that great ANZAC sprit of mateship first,'' the Prime Minister said.
Tony Abbott said Corporal Keighran was "the best of the best and the bravest of the brave''.
"What drives one man but not others to repeatedly risk his life for his mates? We don't know, but we salute you.''
Also attending the ceremony at Government House in Canberra were the nation’s military chiefs, led by Chief of Defence David Hurley, and Afghanistan’s ambassador to Australia Nasir Andisha.
The Governor-General’s official secretary Stephen Brady told the audience that the VC medal had arrived from London at 9.15am this morning.