The late Corporal Cameron Baird, who died in Afghanistan, has become the 100th Australian to be awarded a Victoria Cross.
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Corporal Baird awarded Victoria Cross
Prime Minister Tony Abbott announces the 100th Australian Victoria Cross recipient Corporal Cameron Baird.
Prime Minister Tony Abbott told Parliament that Corporal Baird received the prestigious military honour for "most conspicuous acts of valour".
Mr Abbott, his voice wavering, told of Corporal Baird's heroic and repeated attempts to attack a room containing six insurgents.
"Corporal Baird was the 40th Australian soldier killed in Afghanistan and, please God, the last," Mr Abbott said.
"We mourn them all. We grieve with their families.
"Today we grieve with Cameron Baird's parents, Doug and Kay, his brother Brendan and his nephews Riley and Max," the Prime Minister added.
"You have lost a son, a brother, an uncle ... Our country has lost a citizen, a soldier, a hero. We are all the poorer for his passing but the richer for his living."
Mr Abbott said he could hardly imagine "what the likes of Corporal Baird and his comrades go through", but he saluted the fallen soldier.
Opposition Leader Bill Shorten rose in Parliament to support "the moving words of the Prime Minister and to pay tribute to the courage and sacrifice of Corporal Cameron Baird of the 2nd commando regiment".
"He was a real hero," Mr Shorten said. "A man who risked his life for his mates."
"I hope his family here feel that our Parliament, all of us here, do some justice to his memory ... today."
Mr Shorten cited "high praise" from an elite unit recognised the world over for its professionalism, courage and skill.
"Even in that esteem company, [Corporal Baird's] record stands out," he added.
Corporal Baird, who was 32 when he was killed in action, served eight tours including East Timor, Iraq and Afghanistan. The Australian active service medal recognises his service in East Timor, Iraq and the international campaign against terrorism.
Corporal Baird had been awarded the Afghanistan campaign medal, the Iraq campaign medal, the Australian service medal for counter-terrorism special recovery, the Australian Defence medal, the UN medal for work in Timor, the NATO medal for multiple tours, the infantry combat badge, the return from active service badge, Mr Shorten added.
In 2008, Corporal Baird was awarded the medal of gallantry.
Australia’s highest military honour, the Victoria Cross for Australia, will be awarded posthumously.
On June 22, 2013, Corporal Baird died in close combat with insurgents as a Commando Team Leader in Uruzgan Province, Afghanistan.
He repeatedly drew enemy fire away from his team members and charged enemy positions under heavy fire, the Prime Minister said.
Corporal Baird's actions enabled the enemy to be neutralised and his team to be kept safe, Mr Abbott added.
A commando serving with the Special Operations Task Group, "Bairdy" rose from a young private to Special Forces soldier in the Sydney-based 2nd Commando Regiment.
In 2007, Corporal Baird, who had also served in Iraq and East Timor, was awarded the Medal for Gallantry for bravery in Afghanistan after he pulled a dying mate to safety and led a squadron door to door through an enemy stronghold.
At his funeral he was remembered for his "gallantry, composure and leadership" under fire and described as an "outstanding" soldier.
"In combat and as a team commander, he was the man to watch and never happier than when the situation demanded decisive action and courage," Chief of the Defence Force
David Hurley, said after his death: "His mates describe him as one of the most iconic figures in the regiment."
Defence said he exemplified what it meant to be a commando, "living by the attributes of uncompromising spirit and honour", which earned him the respect of his comrades.when he died.
Ian Kyte, regional manager of the Corporal Baird’s former football club, the Calder Cannons, said Thursday's announcement was a fitting honour for a tragic loss.
"It really brought home to our kids last year that footy is just a game and we’re lucky to live in this country that people like Cameron have made the ultimate sacrifice to make sure it stays the way it is," he said.
Mr Kyte said the club was planning to mirror the prestigious honour with its own award named after Corporal Baird for the "most courageous player", starting this season.
"This will keep him in the minds of everybody at the club," he said. "He had a lot of promise as a young man playing here ... and everyone held him in high regard including guys who went onto the AFL like Jude Bolton and Ryan O’Keefe.'
Corporal Baird was picked to play in the club's under-18s side when he was just 15 years old, and later played a number of AFL reserves matches.
with Beau Donelly and Nick Toscano