When Bruce Moncur talks about Pte. Jess Larochelle on October 14, 2006, in the Panjwaii district of Afghanistan, he describes them as “superhuman”.
Moncur, a retired Canadian force corporal, is one of the veterans pushing for Larochelle to receive the Canadian Victoria Cross, the country’s highest military honor. And one that has never been released.
“What he did that day was definitely beyond duty, “Moncur said As it happens hosted Carol Off.
Larochelle would be the first person to receive the honor, which was created in 1993 to replace the British Commonwealth Victoria Cross. That award was last given to a Canadian who served during World War II.
Moncur, who served with Larochelle, says that day in 2006 that the private had volunteered to be on an observation post alone. It would normally have two people to operate the two C-6 machine guns. The split was short-lived because one of their vehicles had hit an improvised explosive device and had to be taken back to Kandahar airfield.
That afternoon, the observation post was attacked.
““When the attack happened, a rocket hit his position, knocking him unconscious, but also breaking vertebrae in his neck and back, loosening … one of his retinas and blowing the eardrum out of his right side,” Moncur said.
When Larochelle arrived, he was fighting off the Taliban with an M72 rocket launcher, something Moncur says would have been extremely difficult to do given his injuries.
“I know the kick of those rockets and I could just imagine how unbearable each of them would have been to fire them with broken vertebrae, a broken neck, “Moncur said.
Tap to see Larochelle honored
Sgt. Darcy Tedford and Pte. Blake Williamson was killed in the attack and three other soldiers were wounded. But Larochelle’s actions helped save lives and enabled the company to fight back against more than 20 Taliban fighters.
“His actions were basically superhuman, especially given the injuries he sustained, “Moncur said.
The following year, in 2007, Larochelle was awarded the prize Star of Military Valor for his actions, Canada’s second highest military honor.
Moncur, along with other veterans of the non-profit group Valor in the Presence of the Enemy, urges Larochelle to receive the Canadian Victoria Cross.
They have support from retired General Rick Hillier, who told CBC News in September that they would write to the governor-general asking for a review of Larochelle’s quote in hopes of upgrading it.
Monkur’s wife, NDP MP Niki Ashton, is sponsor of a petition in the House of Commons, pushing for Larochelle to receive the award.
Larochelle is struggling with health issues
Larochelle is a private person who likes to go hunting and take his pontoon boat forward for trout fishing, according to Moncur.
But in the last few years, Larochelle’s health has started to deteriorate.
“So the bad days are far more than the good days,” Moncur said. By September, Larochelle had lost 100 pounds and had been out of the hospital about twelve times while doctors tried to figure out what was wrong.
Moncur and others began fighting for Larochelle’s actions that same month to mark the 15th anniversary of Operation Medusa, in which Larochelle fought.
“Jess has had a tough time since he got home, and the health issues are just part of what you know, the memory issues and PTSD, “Moncur said.” He paid such a high price and he still pays for the day, mentally and physically, you know, every day, and it’s only getting worse. “
Moncur also worries that Larochelle will not be alive to receive the Victoria Cross.
But since they’ve been published, it looks like Larochelle has gathered.
“He is very humble. He is very grateful for the efforts we have been through and his health started to get better,” Moncur said.
“I think the moral boost helped, and that’s what we really want to do. “
Written by Andrea Bellemare with files by Murray Brewster. Interview produced by Kate Swoger.
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