Derapet battle earns soldier his VC
Headcam video shows the battle against the Taliban two years ago, during which Corporal Daniel Keighran's bravery earned him a Victoria Cross.PT0M0S 620 349
Corporal Daniel Keighran has received Australia's highest military honour.
Governor-General Quentin Bryce presented Corporal Keighran, 29, with the Victoria Cross medal at a ceremony at Government House in Canberra.
The audience was told how Corporal Keighran, in "deliberate acts of exceptional courage", repeatedly exposed himself to intense enemy fire during action in Oruzgan province in which a colleague was killed.
Governor-General Quentin Bryce presents Corporal Keighran with the Victoria Cross. Photo: Andrew Meares
Ms Bryce described Corporal Keighran, who was born in Nambour in Queensland and grew up in regional Queensland, as a man of profound physical and moral strength.
"A man selfless in the face of threat, courageous in the face of terror, generous in the face of suffering and humble in the face of an honour bestowed," she said.
According to the citation, on August 24, 2010, Corporal Keighran was on a fighting patrol with Afghan forces in Derapet, Oruzgan. The group was engaged in a "prolonged, numerically superior" enemy attack from multiple points.
Corporal Daniel Keighran, with his wife Kathryn, has been presented the Victoria Cross medal. Photo: Andrew Meares
"With complete disregard for his own safety", Corporal Keighran broke cover on multiple occasions to draw intense and accurate enemy fire to identify enemy locations.
When a member of his patrol sustained a casualty, of his own initiative, he again broke cover to draw fire away from the team who were helping the injured soldier. Corporal Jared MacKinney was killed in the action.
The citation also said that Corporal Keighran's actions were "instrumental in permitting the withdrawal of the combined Australian and Afghan patrol with no further casualties".
Prime Minister Julia Gillard and partner Tim Mathieson arrive for the ceremony at Government House. Photo: Andrew Meares
Ms Bryce said there were other heroes on that day, but that what Corporal Keighran did was different.
"Acknowledging it here now does not diminish the efforts and sacrifices of those who fought beside you," she said. ''They need you to be here."
Corporal Keighran, who has also served in East Timor and Iraq, enlisted in the Australian Army in 2000 and was posted to the 6th Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment in 2001, where he served as a rifleman. During his military career, Corporal Keighran also served in a mortar platoon and as a Bushmaster driver. He moved to the Active Reserve last year.
He is the third Australian soldier to be awarded the Victoria Cross for service in Afghanistan. Corporal Mark Donaldson was awarded the honour in 2009, followed by Corporal Benjamin Roberts-Smith in 2011.
Four soldiers were awarded the honour in the Vietnam War.
Corporal Keighran said he was extremely honoured and proud to receive the award, but said it was as much for his mates as it was for himself.
"I wouldn't be here today if it wasn't for the boys with me," he told reporters at Government House.
He said that now he was a reservist, he hadn't seen the 6RAR soldiers for a couple of years. "It will be good after all of this to have a chat," he said.
Corporal Keighran, who now works in a gold mine in Kalgoorlie, said that "training" had taken over during the enemy attack. He said he would not get used to people talking about him as brave and selfless. "It's quite odd," he said.
Corporal Keighran told reporters he did not like to talk about what happened that day and had only told his wife, Kathryn, 13 days ago.
"She wasn't impressed to start with," he said with a laugh.
The award was presented in front of Prime Minister Julia Gillard, Opposition Leader Tony Abbott and Defence Minister Stephen Smith as well as senior military personnel, including the Chief of the Defence Force, General David Hurley.
Ms Gillard said Corporal Keighran had shown his preparedness to lay down his life for his friends.
''They were spectacular acts of bravery where in the moment you did not put your personal safety first but you put that Anzac tradition of mateship first. That's why we are honouring you today,'' she said.
Mr Abbott said Corporal Keighran joined ''a remarkable elite: the best of the best, and the bravest of the brave''.
''Those of us who don't serve in the armed forces and who don't put our lives on the line for our country are in awe of those who do,'' Mr Abbott said.
General Hurley said by identifying and suppressing enemy firing points, Corporal Keighran had ''turned the fight in our favour''.
He quoted one of the soldier's comrades as saying: "I would fight to serve with Corporal Dan Keighran in the future.''
''So will the rest of the ADF,'' General Hurley said.
Official Secretary to the Governor-General Stephen Brady was impressed that the soldier's name had not been leaked before the official announcement.
"It's not often in this town that a secret holds," he said.
The medal presented to Corporal Keighran only arrived from London at 9.15am.
"We didn't share that detail or the associated anxiety with its recipient," Mr Brady said.
Queensland Premier Campbell Newman congratulated Corporal Keighran, saying the state should be proud of its brave fighter.
“Born and raised in Queensland, the entire state should be extremely proud of this fine soldier,’’ Mr Newman said.
Only 99 Australians have ever been awarded the Victoria Cross.
According to the Department of Defence, the Victoria Cross is ''awarded to persons who, in the presence of the enemy, display the most conspicuous gallantry; a daring or pre-eminent act of valour or self-sacrifice; or extreme devotion to duty'".
Queen Victoria created the Victoria Cross in 1856, which was made retrospective to 1854 to cover the period of the Crimean War.
Australia came under the British system until 1991, when the Victoria Cross for Australia was created.
with Dan Harrison, AAP