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On 6 February 2007, Her Excellency the Right Honourable Michaëlle Jean, Governor General and Commander in Chief of Canada, announced the awarding of four additional military valour decorations to members of the Canadian Forces who have recently displayed gallantry and devotion to duty in combat. Then, on 19 February, Her Excellency formally presented the four military valour decorations to the recipients featured in our last issue, as well as a Star of Military Valour to Major William Fletcher and a Medal of Military Valour to Captain Derek Prohar, two of the four latest recipients. The Governor General said that the medals had been created to recognize valour, courage, selflessness, and devotion to duty in very difficult situations. “That is what our soldiers are enduring in Afghanistan... isolation, intense fire, injury, confusion, and death. Every Canadian who learns about their courage... realizes how difficult it is and realizes their courage.” She also said that the medals are an important symbol of support for our troops. “[The recipients] need to see that we understand how difficult it is, that we respect their engagement. The medals are just a way of saying that.” Commenting further, the Governor General said that the fighting in Afghanistan has exposed Canadian soldiers to the deadliest combat since Korea. “However, our forces’ experience in Afghanistan suggests that the most trying circumstances can bring forth the most noble human qualities, qualities like loyalty, bravery, resourcefulness, compassion, boldness, and sheer determination.”

The Governor General with valour medal recipients

Canada’s Governor General with the first recipients of Canada’s new Military Valour Decorations, 21 February 2007. Front, left to right, Major Fletcher, General Hillier, Chief of the Defence Staff, Her Excellency, the Right Honourable Michaëlle Jean, Sergeant Tower. Back row, left to right, Master Corporal Fitzgerald, Captain Prohar, Sergeant Denine, and Corporal Lamont.

Shortly after the beginning of Canadian involvement in Afghanistan, it was established that the basic conditions for the awarding of the valour decorations had been met. The gallant actions of Canadian Forces members in the face of increased hostilities in recent months have provided the occasion to award them. The three military valour decorations, namely, the Victoria Cross, the Star of Military Valour, and the Medal of Military Valour, were created by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, Queen of Canada, on 1 January 1993. The decorations may be awarded posthumously.

Victoria Cross

Victoria Cross

Star of Military Valour

Star of Military Valour

Medal of Military Valour

Medal of Military Valour

The Victoria Cross is awarded for the most conspicuous bravery, a daring or pre-eminent act of valour or self-sacrifice, or extreme devotion to duty in the presence of the enemy.

The Star of Military Valour is awarded for distinguished or valiant service in the presence of the enemy.

The Medal of Military Valour is awarded for an act of valour or devotion to duty in the presence of the enemy.

The four most recently honoured soldiers are:

  • Major William Hilton Fletcher of Victoria, British Columbia – The Star of Military Valour;

  • Corporal John David Makela of Ottawa, Ontario – The Medal of Military Valour;

  • Captain Derek Prohar of Edmonton and St. Albert, Alberta, and Avonlea, Saskatchewan – The Medal of Military Valour; and

  • Major Michael Charles Wright of Shilo, Manitoba, and Oakville, Ontario – The Medal of Military Valour.

As Officer Commanding C Company, Task Force Afghanistan, from January to August 2006, Major Fletcher repeatedly demonstrated extraordinary bravery by exposing himself to intense fire while leading his forces, on foot, to assault heavily defended enemy positions. On two occasions, the soldiers at his side were struck by enemy fire. He immediately rendered first aid and then continued to head the subsequent assaults. On these occasions and in ensuing combat actions, his selfless courage, tactical acumen and effective command were pivotal to the success of his company in defeating a determined opponent.

On 16 October 2006, Corporal Makela prevented a fatal attack on his combat logistics patrol by a suicide bomber in Afghanistan. As the turret gunner providing overwatch for the convoy, he accurately identified the approaching suspicious vehicle as a suicide bomber car. Despite the likely potential of an explosion, he maintained his exposed position and applied fire, resulting in the premature detonation of the bomber car. The explosion engulfed Corporal Makela’s vehicle and seriously burned him. His valiant and courageous actions inevitably prevented the bomber from reaching his intended target and saved the lives of other soldiers in the convoy.

Assigned as liaison officer with the United States Special Forces in Afghanistan during the battle at Sperwan Ghar, from 5-12 September 2006, Captain Prohar operated as the rear machine gunner on the battalion commander’s vehicle. He was wounded by an improvised explosive device during an intense enemy ambush. Despite his injuries, he continued returning fire and assisted the commander with the control of the attack, which resulted in the successful seizing of key terrain. Captain Prohar’s courage and actions earned him the respect of the allied soldiers of the United States Special Forces.

On the night of 19 August 2006, Major Wright of Alpha Company, Task Force Afghanistan, demonstrated outstanding courage and exceptional leadership in combat. Directed to move to the Panjwayi District Centre to enhance security, his troops were rapidly engaged and encircled by a significantly larger enemy force. Under intense fire from small arms and rocket-propelled grenades coming from all directions, he refused reinforcements for safety reasons and led his embattled force to outmanoeuvre the enemy, inflicting serious enemy casualties. His courage and his leadership led to the defeat of a much larger enemy force without a single Canadian Forces casualty.

Corporal Makela and Major Wright will have their decorations presented at a suitable ceremony in due course.


Major William Hilton Fletcher, SMV, CD, receiving Star of Military Valour.

The GG with a soldier


Captain Derek Prohar, MMV, receiving Medal of Military Valour.

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