When Corporal Daniel Keighran first visited the Australian War Memorial as a 17-year-old new recruit, he never imagined he would end up on the wall in the Hall of Valour.
But his medals - including his Victoria Cross - were unveiled on Friday morning at a ceremony in which War Memorial director Dr Brendan Nelson also announced the War Memorial would have an Afghanistan exhibition “before the end of this year”.
“I didn’t think a lot of things would happen over the years, but it’s interesting to come back here to the War Memorial and now see myself there. I snuck in yesterday and had a quick look – it was up yesterday – and it’s a humbling experience,” Corporal Keighran said.
Corporal Keighran’s citation and medals sits with 68 other Victoria Cross displays in the hall, alongside the two other post-1991 Victoria Cross for Australia recipients, Corporals Mark Donaldson and Ben Roberts-Smith. It’s a situation the Royal Australian Regiment soldier described as humbling.
“When you go around and read some of these citations, some of these guys have done incredible things and it’s humbling to be on the wall with the rest of these guys, what else can I say,” Corporal Keighran said.
Corporal Keighran received the Victoria Cross – the highest award for bravery in time of war – for his actions in battle in Derapet, in Uruzgan Province, Afghanistan in 2010. A joint Australian–Afghan National Army patrol came under sustained attack, and Corporal Keighran repeatedly exposed himself to enemy fire to identify targets and draw attention away from wounded comrades.
The War Memorial has been holding on to his medal for safekeeping since he received it at a ceremony in Canberra last November, and the 29 year old was in no doubt about where it should be kept.
“I wasn’t going to take it home and put it in my sock drawer,” he joked.
“I’ve been looking forward to this, to come back here again since I first handed it over, for me it’s quite important to display it here.
“We’ve got the young people here today, because I think it’s really important that they come along and see it’s part of our history – not just my medal, but all the displays.”
Dr Nelson said the institution was “immensely proud to be able to be the custodian of his Victoria Cross” and the unveiling was a proud day for all Australians.
“The finest qualities that Australia can produce are represented by Dan Keighran: what he’s done in our name, in our uniform and on our behalf,” he said.
“I ask all Australians if you are able to, at some point to visit the Australian War Memorial, have a look at the cross, the medals, but most importantly to read the citation.”