By lex, on January 23rd, 2010
New Zealand’s Corporal Willie Apiata was awarded the Victoria Cross in 2007, for actions serving in Afghanistan in 2004 [pdf] **
It was just after 3am when the blast of the enemy rocket propelled grenades and machines gun fire ripped into the inky darkness of an Afghanistan hillside.
With his upper right arm shredded by shrapnel, and bleeding profusely, the young SAS soldier lapsed in and out of consciousness. He and his mates, including Willie Apiata, were caught in crossfire in the undulating starkness of the surrounding countryside.
Apiata, unhurt but stunned, was jolted off his vehicle. His critically injured mate at first told Apiata he could make the 70 metre run back to the safety of the main Kiwi group and to the medical assistance he so desperately needed. The men were no longer in darkness however. One of their vehicles was immobilised, and the other was on fire, illuminating the only pathway the men had to safety.
As his mate lapsed into unconsciousness and machine gun fire crackled around him, Apiata made a decision. Fully exposed in the glare of battle to heavy enemy fire and into the face of returning fire from the main troop position, he heaved the injured man onto his back and carried him uphill back to his base. That he was not injured, nor his mate further injured, remains one of life’s mysteries.
There was, in the words of an eyewitness. “a shitload of stuff coming towards them – rocket propelled grenades, machinegun fire, small arms fire. There were explosions everywhere, and they were caught in the middle – how they got through we will never know.”
With the injured man out of further harm’s way, Apiata rearmed himself and returned to join the skirmish. The troop could now concentrate entirely on winning the fire fight. After an engagement lasting about twenty minutes, the assault was broken up and the attackers – there were more than 20 of them, and about 12 New Zealanders – were routed with significant casualties, with the troop in pursuit.
Here’s a picture of him at his presentation ceremony.
Now here’s a picture of him in Afghanistan earlier this month in full kit, coming out of a building holding the cooling remains of three Taliban terrorists.
Kudos to the brave Kiwi for getting back into the fight. Multiple biffs with the cluebat to the journo who publicly published his image for regional jihadis to study from.
They took Prince Harry off the line in Iraq because of the risks involved with such a high profile figure being captured or killed. To my mind, Corporal Apiata is worth a dozen or two of him.
** 09-24-2018 Original link gone; replacement found – Ed.