|Governor General David Johnston presents Adam Hever with a military award at Rideau Hall on June 22, 2012. (CHRIS ROUSSAKIS/QMI Agency)
OTTAWA – They sprinted through enemy fire, dragged comrades to safety while bullets rained down, and held their breath as they defused roadside bombs.
The Governor General honoured Canadian men and women in the Armed Forces with Medals of Military Valour and Meritorious Service Medals on Friday.
Soldiers in dress uniform stood at attention as Gov. Gen. David Johnston pinned the medals on their chests.
Their families, many with small children and babies in their arms, watched with pride in the iconic white-and-pink-fabric draped Tent Room at Ottawa's Rideau Hall.
“Most of us in this air-conditioned, beautiful room cannot imagine what it was like for you in the punishing heat, with your packs on your backs, doing your best duty while under constant threat. We are all proud of you,” Chief of Defence Staff Walter Natynczyk told the troops.
Five Medals of Military Valour and 36 Meritorious Service Medals were awarded.
Americans were also invited and honoured at the ceremony.
Staff Sgt. Adam Hever with the United States Army was in a training drill with Canadians on base at Kandahar in Afghanistan.
He and many others were unarmed the Taliban tried to storm the base. But Hever kept his cool, found a gun, helped others get weapons and successfully drove back the enemy.
“I see no difference between Americans and my Canadian allies on the field. We are on the same side in this fight and always help each other,” Hever said.
Master Cpl. Charles St.-Pierre from Saint-Quentin, N.B., was in a four-day combat in the Arghandab Valley of Kadahar. Under constant fire. He willingly exposed himself to attacks while standing up to pinpoint enemy positions.
When a bullet rang off of his helmet, his training helped him keep his cool. “My first instinct was to reach up and make sure the rest of my head was still there, but then I just focused and fought back,” St-Pierre told QMI Agency.
Sgt. Gord Cullen from St. James, Man., is a master sniper. He was under non-stop enemy fire while lining up the Taliban fighters in his long-range scope.
In at least one instance, he sussed out the enemy location and took them out before they could ambush Canadian troops below their ridge hideout for the second time.
“We don't think of the fire coming our way. It's usually inaccurate, and it's our job to make the field of battle as safe as possible for our guys. Very proud of the Canadian sniper program,” Cullen said.
Master Cpl. Jeffrey Quesnelle from Penetanguishene, Ont., defused more than 65 roadside bombs while lying in the dust and scorching heat of the Afghan desert. His superiors say he saved hundreds of allies' and Afghan civilians' lives.
The Military Medal of Valour is awarded for an act of valour or devotion to duty in the presence of the enemy. The Meritorious Service Medal recognizes a military deed performed in a highly professional manner that honours the Canadian Armed Forces.