In a regular meeting of Council on Tuesday, December 14, a motion brought forward 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 dedicated to recognizing an
Afghanistan veteran with the Victoria Cross), as well as several high profile Canadians such as General Rick Hillier and veteran advocacy groups like the Royal Canadian Legion, to award Pte. Jesse Larochelle.
Larochelle received unanimous support from County Council.
“The County of Vermilion River adds it’s 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”.
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 have been killed and the remainder wounded.
The two supporting LAVs (Light Armoured Vehicles) have been disabled, there cannons no longer in the fight. Instinctively, he crawls towards the heavy machine gun to get rounds down range and suppress the advancing enemy all the while being under sustained enemy small-arms fire.
Being on the flank of his company, he is at a crucial junction in the firefight – if he is overrun, the entire group of soldiers could be wiped out. Despite his best efforts, the heavy machine gun has been rendered inoperable by the explosion. Knowing the dire circumstances, Pte. Larochelle looks around and discovers 15 unused M72 single-use rocket launchers nearby. With total disregard for his safety, as these rockets may explode due to unseen damage from the same blast that knocked him out, he begins to pull the rubber stoppers off the tubes and begins firing them at the enemy fighters.
Seeing the devastation that the explosive rounds cause, the insurgents halt their advance and retreat. Later, Pte. Larochelle would be treated for his injuries were it is discovered he suffered; a broken back and severe head trauma. The actions of Pte. Larochelle, while seriously injured, changed the course of the battle that day, and saved countless Canadian lives.
The County of Vermilion River joins other municipalities in calling for the review of the medal entitlement, with hopes of promoting Pte. Jesse Larochelle to the Commonwealth’s highest medal for Valour – the Victoria Cross.
Larochelle would be the first person to receive the honour, which was created in 1993 to replace the British Commonwealth Victoria Cross. That award was last given to a Canadian who served during the Second World War.