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Mark Donaldson Awarded VC

published  First Published: 17/01/2009
Article written by: News Editor: Nigel Brookson
Over two hours in south eastern Afghanistan last September 2 2008, Trooper Donaldson, 29, repeatedly fought alone in open ground under drawing the attack of heavy Taliban machine-gun fire to allow his wounded comrades to be dragged to safety.
 
Deliberate exposure to draw enemy fire away from the wounded would have been enough for a Victoria Cross recommendation, but Trooper Donaldson then sprinted 80m over the same killing ground to save the life of a seriously wounded Afghan interpreter.
 
In the words of the award citation, Trooper Donaldson - whose story Kevin Rudd said yesterday would be known to generations of Australian schoolchildren - reacted spontaneously to regain the initiative following an ambush that inflicted the worst casualties suffered by Australia since the Vietnam War.
 
Under extreme enemy fire Trooper Donaldson ran between alternative positions engaging the Taliban with his M4 carbine and 66mm and 84mm shoulder-fired rockets.
 
"He deliberately exposed himself to enemy fire in order to draw attention to himself and thus away from wounded soldiers," the citation reads.
 
"This selfless act alone brought enough time for those wounded to be moved to relative safety."
 
But, there was more to follow.

With the wounded, nine of them Australian, piled onto the vehicles the convoy began to withdraw with covering fire provided by Afghan US and Australian special forces soldiers sheltering beside the vehicles.

Those soldiers still fit to fight had to jog alongside the vehicles.

There was no space onboard, due to the large number of wounded.

One of the last to leave, Trooper Donaldson, spotted the Afghan interpreter lying wounded in open ground more than 80m away. "His movement, once identified by the enemy, drew intense and accurate machine gun fire from entrenched positions," the citation reads.
 
"Upon reaching the wounded coalition force interpreter, Trooper Donaldson picked him up and carried him back to the relative safety of the vehicles and then provided immediate first aid before returning to the fight."
 
Trooper Donaldson at a ceremony at Government House yesterday became the 96th Australian to win the country's highest award for gallantry. He is also the first to win the Victoria Cross of Australia, as it is now formally known after the imperial honours system was replaced in 1991.
 
With guests seated, doors were closed and shortly after 11.30am, Governor-General Quentin Bryce arrived to present the award.
"Trooper Donaldson, the people with you this morning come from the deepest and warmest layers of your life, the highest ranks of your calling and the judiciary and parliament of the nation you serve," Ms Bryce said.
 
"We award you a decoration whose words are reserved for the incomparable and unsurpassed.
 
"Words whose integrity is untouched by vernacular. Words rare and revered. Gallantry, valour, self-sacrifice, devotion to duty. You have cradled life in your arms," she said in reference to Trooper Donaldson's heroic rescue of the Afghan interpreter.
 
"You are the finest example and inspiration, Trooper Donaldson, I salute you."
 
Trooper Donaldson was now a member of a select "band of brothers", one of only 10 surviving winners of the VC alive in the world today.
 
And as tradition dictates, Australia's most senior military officer then strode over to Trooper Donaldson and saluted him.
 
Mr Rudd said the Afghanistan, Iraq and East Timor veteran had joined the ranks of Australian heroes and his feat of arms would become the stuff of legend.
 
"Trooper Donaldson, the nation salutes you. A man of valour. A man who consciously took the decision to place his own life in peril to save the lives of others. I salute you," the Prime Minister said. "Generations of school children will now know of the story of Trooper Mark Donaldson.
 
"It is a story of a hero, one which will be told in classrooms, workplaces and watering holes for many years to come."
 
"I don't see myself as a hero, honestly. I still see myself as a soldier first and foremost."
 
Emma Donaldson, overcome with emotion during the ceremony, admitted to nervous moments while he was away, but said she fully supported him.
 
"He was married to the army before he married me, and I support him all the way."
 

 

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