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Local hero recounts actions under fire that could earn him nation's highest military honour

'Standard operating procedure dictates the soldier abandons the observation post. You're not supposed to stay and fight. For something I could have gotten in trouble for and now, all this. It's pretty overwhelming.'
2021 11 30 Larochelle Victoria Cross
A campaign continues seeking the award of the first Canadian Victoria Cross to Restoule's Pte. Jess Larochelle.

Valour in the Presence of the Enemy, an advocacy group with a mandate to have a Canadian Victoria Cross awarded to an Afghanistan veteran will be ramping up efforts to do just that when it comes to local veteran Private Jess Larochelle of Restoule, Ont.  

The push is on in support of Canadian Army infantry soldier Larochelle, whose actions while serving in Afghanistan over 15 years ago with the First Battalion of The Royal Canadian Regiment led to the campaign by Valour in the Presence of the Enemy to have the Star of Military Valour he received upgraded to Canada’s highest military honour, the Canadian Victoria Cross.

A letter documenting the outpouring of support for the Larochelle Canadian Victoria Cross campaign is destined for the Governor General's office by Valour in the Presence of the Enemy. An e-petition on Larochelle's behalf was presented to Minister of National Defence Anita Anand with over 14,000 signatures in support. There is a sense of urgency from the advocacy group as the letter also outlines Larochelle's ongoing and debilitating health issues related to the injuries he suffered during the very events for which he is being lauded.

See related: Campaign seeking award of highest military honour to local veteran receives Council support in North Bay

See also: Callander council backs campaign to honour local veteran

An audio recording from November 2021 of Larochelle's interview with retired Canadian Forces Gen. Rick Hillier and released by Valour in the Presence of the Enemy on its YouTube channel, Friday, is billed as Larochelle's first public account of what happened on October 14, 2006, in Afghanistan. At the time, Hillier was the Chief of the Defence Staff.

For the full Larochelle-Hillier interview, click here.

Valour in the Presence of the Enemy says the Larochelle and Hillier interview is what "convinced us beyond a shadow of a doubt that Jess needs a review of his citation and an independent review to determine whether or not he could be upgraded to the Victoria Cross."

The interview covers the details of the battle in which Larochelle defended his unit's position in Pashmul while badly injured and under attack demonstrating "an unparalleled sense of duty and commitment to his fellow soldiers," according to reports in support of his receiving Canada's first Victoria Cross.

Larochelle had volunteered to climb into an observation post high above the battlefield where dozens of approaching Taliban forces shelled the Canadian positions. An RPG salvo seriously injured Larochelle who suffered broken vertebrae in his neck and back and a detached retina when the explosion sent him careening into the back wall of the post. 

More on the Defence of Strong Point Centre — 14 October 2006.

On the initiative spearheaded by Valour in the Presence of the Enemy petitioning for him to receive the Canadian Victoria Cross, Larochelle tells group member, Hillier, he is honoured.

"I'm a little bit shocked," Larochelle says. "I could have gotten in trouble for what I did on that day. Standard operating procedure dictates the soldier abandons the observation post. You're not supposed to stay and fight. For something I could have gotten in trouble for and now, all this," he says referring to the Victoria Cross campaign. "It's pretty overwhelming."

The attack killed two soldiers — friends of Larochelle's — and injured several other Canadians. In what would prove to be the last action Private Larochelle would ever see, he provided covering fire for his platoon while unsteady on his feet and bleeding from his ear. The battlefield testimonials say Larochelle's heroic actions and bravery prevented many more casualties as he fought on despite his own wounds.

The last Canadian to earn the original Victoria Cross fought in World War II. In 1993, Canada established its own version. British Commonwealth countries Australia and New Zealand have done the same and, while Canada has yet to award its Victoria Cross, Australia has since bestowed four medals and New Zealand one.

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Stu Campaigne

About the Author: Stu Campaigne

Stu Campaigne is a full-time news reporter for, focusing on local politics and sharing our community's compelling human interest stories.
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