30 Canadians Awarded Bronze Star
Date: Monday, December 08 2003
Topic: Canadian Politics
Relatives of four Canadian soldiers killed in Afghanistan by an American bomb were to accept Bronze Star medals from the United States government Monday during a ceremony before more than 700 troops.
The medal - a simple five-pointed star that hangs from a red, white and blue ribbon - is awarded to mark heroic or meritorious service.
For some it will also mark the pain of losing loved ones on that night in April 2002 when a U.S. fighter jet mistakenly bombed Canadian troops during a military exercise. Eight other soldiers were wounded.
Marley Leger, the widow of Sgt. Marc Leger, one of the four men who died, said she is proud to accept the posthumous award on behalf of her late husband.
"The Bronze Star to me represents bravery and heroism," said Leger, 29.
"When you die for your country fighting for what you believe in, that's the ultimate sacrifice and that's what the Star represents."
Claire and Richard Leger, Marc's mother and father, declined to attend the ceremony.
While Claire Leger is pleased Canadian soldiers are receiving some recognition, she questions the motives of the U.S. government. The accident still stirs up awful memories.
"I don't want to rain on their parade," she said from her home in Stittsville, Ont. "I don't understand why they're giving out medals to our soldiers.
"Do you really think they would receive a medal if it wasn't for the screwed-up job they (the Americans) did when they were out there? I doubt it. I think it's damage control."
Twenty-six other soldiers from the Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry Battle Group were also to be presented with Bronze Stars by U.S. Ambassador Paul Cellucci.
Five of the medals are being awarded to Canadian snipers who distinguished themselves in Afghanistan.
The rest of the Bronze Stars are going to officers and warrant officers, including Maj. Stephen Borland, who was deputy commander of the battle group.
"I am humbled by it. I consider it a great honour to be receiving it. It is a reflection of the meritorious service of every member of the battle group," said Borland, 41, who was brought up in Peterborough, Ont.
"It is not a personal pride, it is more of a collective pride. I will look at it every day and remember our fallen Canadian and American comrades who gave their lives during that mission."
None of the Canadian soldiers injured in the bombing is receiving Bronze Stars.
The wounds from the bomb shrapnel that tore into Cpl. Brett Perry's arm that night have healed, but the 27-year-old Winnipegger has been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder because of the blast. He is still haunted by memories of the explosion.
Perry planned to stand at attention with his company and watch others receive the award.
"Physical wounds can always heal but the mental wounds will never be healed," said Perry. "It will always be there. I think about it every night.
"I think the whole battle group deserves something from the Americans for what happened over there."
During the ceremony, the battle group will also be presented with a Commander-in-Chief Unit Commendation from the Canadian government.
It is only the third commendation of its type ever awarded. Others went to the 2nd battalion of the Patricias for their fight in the Medak Pocket in the former Yugoslavia and to the 1st Battalion, Royal 22nd Regiment for its defence of the airport at Sarajevo.
Doreen Coolen, whose only son Pte. Richard Green died in the Afghanistan bombing, remains overcome with grief.
Coolen filed a wrongful death suit against the U.S. government earlier this year. She is seeking damages, an apology from Washington and assurances the American military will take steps to reduce friendly fire accidents.
Despite her sadness and anger, Coolen said she accepts the Bronze Star on behalf of Ricky, who was only 22 when he died.
"My son fought side by side with these soldiers. It is what Ricky would want," said Coolen, 41, who lives near Chester, N.S.
"They were a family, the PPCLI. They worked together. They fought together. They died together.
"He was so proud. When he got his (paratrooper) wings. It was the proudest moment in his life."
A list of Canadian soldiers awarded Bronze Star medals by the American government for their actions in Afghanistan in 2002:
- Maj. Michael O. Blackburn
- Maj. Colin J. Blair
- Maj. Stephen E.¬ K. Borland
- Maj. Thomas Bradley
- Master Warrant Officer James D. Butters
- Maj. Mark Douglas Campbell
- Chief Warrant Officer Joseph A. Comeau, M.S.C.
- Maj. Peter Samson Dawe
- Cpl. Dennis Eason
- Maj. Robert J. Ford
- Cpl. Robert Furlong
- Maj. Sean Anthony Hackett
- Master Warrant Officer Kenneth G. Hodge
- Maj. Rodney Ference Keller
- Master Warrant Officer David Allen Lee
- Master Cpl. Timothy McMeekin
- Master Warrant Officer Jocelyn E. Pemberton
- Master Cpl. Arron C. Perry
- Master Warrant Offficer Timothy Patrick Power
- Master Cpl. Graham Ragsdale
- Master Warrant Officer Timothy Rocky D. Ror
- Master Warrant Officer Jerome L. Scheidl
- Maj. Shane B. Schreiber
- Col. Pat Stogran, M.S.C.
- Master Warrant Officer Allan J. Whitehall
- Maj. Udo Joseph Frederick Wolanski
- Cpl. Ainsworth Dyer
- Pte. Richard A. Green
- Sgt. Marc D. Leger
- Pte. Nathan Smith
By¬ JOHN COTTER
¬©¬ Copyright 2003
Source: The Canadian Press