Gov. Gen. MichaŽlle Jean presents the Star of Military Valour to Major David Quick at Rideau Hall in Ottawa on Wednesday. (Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press)
Five Canadian soldiers were honoured with prestigious bravery medals in Ottawa on Wednesday, but they all insisted they aren't heroes.
"I have my heroes and my heroes, they don't come home," said Sgt. Gerald Killam of Cole Harbour, N.S., whose friends and colleagues have been killed in the Afghanistan mission.
Killam received a Medal of Military Valour for exposing himself to enemy fire as he led his troops safely out of a Taliban ambush in May in the southern Afghanistan village of Sangsar. He said while he takes pride in helping his troops and appreciates being honoured for his actions, others weren't so lucky.
"I've known quite a few guys who never made it back. It's very personal and so, those are my heroes and to label me the same way, I'm not very comfortable with it, no," said Killam, who served with the 2nd Battalion, Royal Canadian Regiment.
The medals were presented in Rideau Hall by MichaŽlle Jean, the Governor General and commander-in-chief of Canada.
"It is often in the most difficult situations that we show our true worth," Jean said. "You are absolute proof of this. You have shown the world what you are made of."
Three others received Medals of Military Valour: Pte. Shane Dolmovic of Cottlesville, N.L., Cpl. Dave Gionet of Pigeon Hill, N.B., and Pte. Jay Renaud of Tilbury, Ont. The medal is considered the third highest valour decoration offered by the military.
'It's about what Canada is committed to'
The fifth medal Jean presented was the Star of Military Valour, the second highest military valour decoration after the Victoria Cross.
It was presented to Maj. David Quick, who was wounded by a roadside bomb on April 22. Despite his injuries, he rallied his troops and carried out a fight with the Taliban in the Zhari district, outside Kandahar. He led 24 combat operations in Afghanistan and never lost a soldier.
"I'm uncomfortable with the recognition on a personal level, but I understand what it represents professionally," said Quick, of Burnstown, Ont., who served with India Company, 2nd Battalion, Royal Canadian Regiment.
"I'm very humbled, but personally it's very hard to get this recognition and attention when you know there are people who are reading the newspaper who've lost sons and daughters."
"I have a hard time with that. It's not about me ó or even what we did as a team. It's about what Canada is committed to in Afghanistan."
Dolmovic and Gionet received their honours for providing life-saving first aid to a comrade whose vehicle had been blown up in a roadside bomb attack on April 11. Renaud was caught in the same attack, and the explosion threw him from the vehicle and knocked him unconscious. When he came to, he administered first aid to his wounded mates.
Another 31 soldiers, sailors and airmen received service decorations for their achievements Wednesday, including Meritorious Service Crosses and Meritorious Service Medals.