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County Of Vermilion River Proclaims Support For Upgrade Of Medal

Pte. Jesse Larochelle Photo Submitted

In a media release on December 15, the County of Vermilion River announced that they voted to support the efforts to have a Canadian Soldier’s Star for Military Valour upgraded to a Canadian Victoria Cross. If successful, the campaign to have Pte. Jesse Larochelle awarded the medal would make Larochelle the first person to receive the honour, which was created in 1993 to replace the British Commonwealth Victoria Cross. A Victoria Cross has not been awarded to a Canadian since World War II.

On October 14, 2006 Pte. Larochelle was engaged in combat with Taliban insurgents near Pashmul, Afghanistan. While operating a very critical heavy machine gun, Pte. Larochelle was struck by a rocket-propelled grenade. The blast knocked him unconscious. When he came too, he realized two members of his section had been killed and the remainder wounded. The two supporting LAVs (Light Armoured Vehicles) had at this point been disabled, their cannons no longer functioning. Larochelle crawled towards the heavy machine gun to get rounds down range and suppress the advancing enemy while under sustained enemy small-arms fire. Being on the flank of his company, he was in a crucial position in the firefight – without his defence all soldiers were in danger of being overrun. The heavy machine gun was rendered inoperable by the explosion, Pte. Larochelle scanned the area and discovered 15 unused M72 single-use rocket launchers nearby. Disregarding his safety, as these rockets may explode due to unseen damage from the same blast that knocked him out, he pulled the rubber stoppers off the tubes and fired them at the enemy fighters. Seeing the devastation that the explosive rounds caused, the insurgents halted their advance and retreated. Pte. Larochelle, treated for his injuries, suffered a broken back and severe head trauma. Pte. Larochelle’s actions, while seriously injured, changed the course of the battle that day, and saved countless Canadian lives.

The motion was brought forward to Council by Director of Protective Services Kirk Hughes, on behalf of Captain Mike Harrison (Ret’d) and “Valour in the Presence of the Enemy” (a non-profit group whose mandate is having a Victoria Cross awarded), as well as several high profile Canadians such as General Rick Hillier and veteran advocacy groups like the Royal Canadian Legion. “The County of Vermilion River adds its voice to the growing and steady support for Pte. Jesse Larochelle’s upgrade from the Star of Military Valour (SMV) to the Victoria Cross (VC)” stated Director Hughes. “The County of Vermilion River has several veterans on their staff, and with our neighbours at CFB Wainwright and CFB Cold Lake so close by, we thought this gesture would aid in promoting the request brought forward under Petition #e-3636”.

In a post on December 18 on their Facebook page, Valour in the Presence of the Enemy stated “The push to upgrade Jess Larochelle to the Victoria Cross has reached nationwide attention in large part to you all sharing the initiative on social media. The official petition has reached over 11,000 signatures and his story has been featured on multiple national news platforms. His upgrade has been endorsed by the likes of the Royal Canadian Legion, four former Afghanistan Battle Group Commanders, the city council of North Bay, ON where he currently resides and more. Yet more work needs to be done to ensure it happens as the Canadian Forces lags behind. Please continue to share and have more Canadians sign Petition E-3636. Thank you!” For more information and access to the petition, visit their Facebook.

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