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5 Canadians Awarded Medal for Valour


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Soldiers humbled by medals of valour

By Murray Brewster, THE CANADIAN PRESS

OTTAWA - Facing Taliban militants amid a rain of rockets may have been uncomfortable, but standing in Rideau Hall was downright nerve-racking for some Canadian soldiers who accepted bravery awards Wednesday.

Standing before Gov. Gen. Michaelle Jean in their dress uniforms, under the watchful eye of Gen. Rick Hillier, chief of defence staff, wasn't the problem.

It was all the praise.

The suggestion he was a hero rattled Sgt. Gerald Killam, who received the Military Medal of Valour for leading his platoon safely out of a Taliban ambush last May.

"I have my heroes and my heroes, they don't come home," said Killam, a native of Cole Harbour, N.S., who had friends among the 81 Canadian soldiers who've given their lives in Afghanistan.

He was particularly close to a group of soldiers who served in Afghanistan in the fall of 2006, and recalled having coffee with some soldiers of the 1st Battalion Royal Canadian Regiment who ended up killed and wounded.

"I've known quite a few guys who never made it back. It's very personal and so, those are my heroes and to label me the same way, I'm not very comfortable with it, no."

Killam, who served with the 2nd Battalion Royal Canadian Regiment battle group in the spring of 2007, said he appreciated the recognition and took pride that he did his job and his platoon came home safely.

Maj. Dave Quick, who accepted the country's second-highest decoration for bravery, the Star of Military Valour, was equally ill-at-ease as he shook hands with Jean and Hillier, and heard the applause of friends and family at the reception.

"I'm uncomfortable with the recognition on a personal level, but I understand what it represents professionally," said Quick, 34, who was wounded by an improvised explosive device on April 22 last year.

Despite his injuries, he rallied his troops and carried the fight to Taliban positions in Zhari district, outside of Kandahar.

Quick, a native of Burnstown, Ont., led 24 combat operations in Afghanistan and never lost a man.

"I'm very humbled, but personally it's very hard to get this recognition and attention when you know there are people who are reading the newspaper who've lost sons and daughters.

"I have a hard time with that. It's not about me - or even what we did as a team. It's about what Canada is committed to in Afghanistan."

Five Canadian soldiers, including Killam and Quick, were awarded medals of valour for their service in Afghanistan.

Another 31 service decorations - including Meritorious Service Crosses and Meritorious Service Medals - were presented separately to other soldiers, sailors and airmen.

Rideau Hall's ornate reception room left Pte. Aaron Dolmovic awestruck, but he said it was "great to see how proud everyone was of us."

Dolmovic - originally from Cottlesville, N.L. - and another soldier, Cpl. Dave Gionet, a native Pigeon Hill, N.B., provided life-saving first aid to another comrade whose vehicle had been blown up in a roadside bomb attack on April 11, 2007.

Both of them received the Medal of Military Valour.

In the same attack, Pte. Jay Renaud, originally from Tilbury, Ont., was in the Coyote reconnaissance vehicle that had been hit.

He was blown clear of the wreckage and knocked unconscious. When he regained his senses, Renaud began administering first aid to his wounded mates.

He too received the medal of valour.

"It is often in the most difficult situations that we show our true worth," said the Governor General.

"You are absolute proof of this. You have shown the world what you are made of."

Jean went further with her praise, saying history will remember the vital role they have played in bringing peace to Afghanistan.

Hillier singled out each of the valour recipients and said their names are now part of Canada's military history and will inspire future generations of soldiers.

Pte Shane Aaron Bradley Dolmovic is presented with the Medal of Military Valour by Governor General Michaelle Jean. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

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