The sprit of the ANZAC: Tpr Donaldson honored with first Victorian Cross since 1969

by Anna Blanch on January 26, 2009

They are not given out like Candy. In fact, even using such a glib comparison feels sacriligious. I am referring to the Victoria Cross, the highest Australian (and Commonwealth) military honor. It doesn’t just honor bravery or courage, but bravery or courage exhibited to save the life or lives of others in the face of incredible odds. It is awarded for “most conspicuous bravery, or some daring or pre-eminent act of valour or self-sacrifice, or extreme devotion to duty in the presence of the enemy.”

It seems appropriate to mark today, Australia Day, with a post recognising the 97th Australian recipient of a Victoria Cross, Tpr Mark Donaldson. Trp Donaldson risked his life to save the lives of his interpreter and fellow soldiers during an ambush in Afghanistan earlier this year. His actions were truly heroic.

Reporter Yuko Narushima, described the incident like this (for full article:

For two hours, bullets and rocket-propelled grenades rained down on Mark Donaldson and his fellow soldiers…Trooper Donaldson ran between positions, firing his rifle, launching anti-armour weapons and exposing himself to enemy fire to draw attention away from wounded soldiers.

As coalition vehicles moved away from the ambush, he ran next to them so the injured men could sit inside. But when they reached safety, Trooper Donaldson realised that a badly wounded interpreter had been left behind.

He ran 80 metres back, exposing himself to “intense and accurate” machine-gun fire to rescue the interpreter. He carried him to a vehicle and performed first aid before returning to the fight.

Even as I write this, thinking of what Australia Day means to me – its complexities, the memories I have of barbeques and cricket, and time with family and friends, it is sobering to consider that the valour and humility shown by Tpr Donaldson is both uplifting and cautionary.

As Tony Stephens writes:

It is a reminder that Australians are still called upon to fight wars. For a nation that thinks of itself as peace-loving, Australia has been involved in plenty. Volunteers went to the wars in New Zealand against the Maori in 1863, to the Sudan in 1885 and now fight in Iraq and Afghanistan.

I think of my friends in uniform serving around the world, and If I was at home in Oz I would have a couple for them, (but i just can’t drink Foster’s no matter what you do to me), so here where I am I just thank them for bravely (and with good intentions) seeking to help preserve a way of life which has given me so many great Australia Days!

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