An email campaign designed to highlight the actions of local soldier Jess Larochelle, 27 other Canadian military veterans, and their worthiness to be honoured with the Canadian Victoria Cross has been directed to the Prime Minister, Members of Parliament, the Minister of Defence, and the Minister of Veterans Affairs for months and has received the support of over 20,000 people.
A Canadian Army infantry soldier, Private Larochelle's heroic actions while serving in Afghanistan over 15 years ago with the First Battalion of The Royal Canadian Regiment led to this campaign to have the Star of Military Valour he received then upgraded to Canada’s highest military honour, the Canadian Victoria Cross. Larochelle's ongoing and debilitating health issues are related to the injuries he suffered during the 2006 firefight in Afghanistan.
See related: Local hero recounts actions under fire that could earn him nation's highest military honour
This chapter of the campaign, organized by Valour in the Presence of the Enemy, a non-profit formed to educate Canadians about the country's proud military heritage that seeks to honour soldiers whose heroism has been overlooked, is coming to a close on Remembrance Day.
See: Local military hero now the subject of public email campaign
"We'll run it until the 11th of November," says retired Canadian Forces Gen. Rick Hillier in a video updating the progress of the campaign with Valour in the Presence of the Enemy members (see below). "This is our act of remembrance. This is our act of tribute. This is us showing our appreciation to those who have served and make sure they have been appropriately recognized."
Valour in the Presence of the Enemy is calling for a Private Member's Bill to direct an independent review, beginning with Larochelle's case and the 27 other Canadian military heroes dating back to World War I the group has identified. The group says some of those soldiers "were denied immortality for their Race, Religious Beliefs and Gender. Others were not properly recognized for the stigma of Mental Health. We need to rectify these shortcomings so as to truly reconcile with our past. These soldiers gave all, and the least we can do is properly recognize them."
Hillier speaks about Larochelle's serious health challenges stemming from the 2006 incident in Afghanistan for which the group seeks the highest form of military honour. There was concern in recent years that the ailing Restoule, Ont., soldier's quality of life would remain poor but a recent medical procedure has given the Larochelle family hope for improved health.
"He's gone through some tough experiences recently," Hillier relays. "He has been carried, I think, by the support of his family and the support of his battle buddies who served with him in Afghanistan and those who have gathered around him to make sure he is OK now back here."
Bruce Moncur, a Valour in the Presence of the Enemy board member, has been in touch with the Larochelle family and shares, "Jess has just gotten out of surgery. His mom told me he is doing well, he's back home. He spent two consecutive months in the hospital, had his surgery, and now the doctors say he has about a six-month recovery time."
Captain (retired) Mike Harrison, an Afghanistan War veteran and local entrepreneur has advocated tirelessly on Larochelle's behalf through Valour in the Presence of the Enemy. High-ranking members of the military, including General (retired) Rick Hillier, have endorsed the quest for the Canadian Victoria Cross. See Hillier's interview with Larochelle below.
See also: Campaign seeking award of highest military honour to local veteran receives Council support in North Bay
And: Callander council backs campaign to honour local veteran
In June, a unanimous consent motion to that effect brought forward by Conservative MP Erin O'Toole received support from all parties except the Liberal Party of Canada and was defeated.
"We are greatly disappointed that such a cause would be denied," despite receiving indications of support across party lines, stated Valour in the Presence of the Enemy then. "In July, the official government response to Petition E3636 put out by MP Brian May was 290 words and not one of them mentions Jess Larochelle by name. This kind of callousness is unacceptable and not indicative of the values of Canada."
To join the campaign advocating for an independent review of the service of Canadian soldiers, including Private Larochelle and 27 other veterans, click here.