About NZ SAS soldier to receive Victoria Cross
|July 2nd, 2007||#1|
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NZ SAS soldier to receive Victoria Cross info
Past NZ recipients of the Victoria Cross
Special Air Service (SAS) Corporal Bill (Willy) Apiata, 35, will receive the medal for services in Afghanistan in 2004, Prime Minister Helen Clark announced today.
Three other SAS soldiers are also to receive bravery awards for actions during the same mission.
Clark said Apiata's actions were carried out despite extreme danger to himself and there was no question he had saved his comrade's life.
"Corporal Apiata carried a severely wounded fellow soldier across open ground while coming under intense attack. He did this despite extreme danger to himself," Clark said.
The action took place in Afghanistan when the SAS was helping US and British forces fight the Taliban.
New Zealand Defence Force chief Lieutenant General Jerry Mateparae said Apiata would appear at a news conference later today.
"It is only normal that public attention will turn to Corporal Apiata," he said.
"In one respect he is an outstanding soldier, but in another respect he is also just an ordinary New Zealander and a humble man. When he was advised he had won the Victoria Cross he said to his commanding officer: 'I was only doing my job boss'."
Apiata will be one of only 13 living recipients of the Victoria Cross.
He was born in the Waikato in 1972 and began his army career in 1989 as a territorial.
He will be presented with his medal by Governor General Anand Satyanand at a special ceremony at Government House in Wellington later this month.
Three other gallantry decorations are also being awarded to other members of the SAS, but they are not being named for security reasons.
All four decorations have been awarded for actions during the same mission.
Defence Minister Phil Goff said it was the extraordinary nature of the award that led authorities to release the name of a serving SAS soldier.
"The Granting of a Victoria Cross is such an extraordinary event that it would be impossible to maintain the confidentiality of the identity of Corporal Apiata," he said.
"We came to the judgment that it was better we announce his name and the circumstances of his winning the award, rather than have the highly probable outcome that that would be leaked somewhere down the track."
"In terms of future deployments, the commander of his unit will have to make a judgment in each instance as to whether he can be deployed given the knowledge people will have of his identity."
The Victoria Cross for New Zealand resembles the British Victoria Cross in appearance and manufacture and is equally hard to win.
Corporal Apiata's Victoria Cross is the 14th awarded since the end of World War Two and the first to a serving member of the SAS anywhere in the Commonwealth.
Cpl Apiata was born in the Waikato in 1972 and grew up in Northland and the Eastern Bay of Plenty.
He joined the New Zealand Army as a territorial soldier in 1989. From July 2000 to April 2001, he served in East Timor as part of the United Nations operated there.
He joined the regular army force in April 2001.
In 1996 he had applied for SAS selection but was not successful, however he reapplied and passed in 2001, training with the SAS in 2002.
He becomes one of only 13 living recipients of the Victoria Cross – the only New Zealander in that group.
Cpl Apiata, 35, affiliates to the Nga Puhi tribe through his father but also feels a strong affiliation to Whanau-a-Apanui, which is also the iwi of his partner.
BRAVEST OF THE BRAVE: Willy Apiata saved the life of a comrade under heavy fire from opposing forces in Afghanistan. He is to receive a Victoria Cross for his bravery.
THE MEDAL: The Victoria Cross for New Zealand is the premier New Zealand award for gallantry.
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