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Blue Blogging Soapbox
...rambling rants, thoughts and musings on mostly political topics - from your late night blogger.

Friday, January 27, 2006

In the best tradition 
(en francais)

What Paul Franklin did was heroic in every sense of the word. So why doesn't he want the Victoria Cross

By MICHELE MANDEL

In an Edmonton hospital lies a wounded Canadian soldier who should become the first winner of Canada's own Victoria Cross.

Despite his objections.

We don't have many real heroes these days. There's no shortage of sports legends and shallow celebrities, but true grit and courage in the face of danger is exceedingly rare.

Master Cpl. Paul Franklin appears to be the real thing.

Franklin, of course, was one of the three soldiers injured Jan. 15 in Afghanistan in the suicide car bombing that killed senior diplomat Glyn Berry. Military sources have said that after Franklin's left leg was blown off below the knee, he managed to apply a tourniquet to his own wound and then crawled to comrades Pte. William Salikin and Cpl. Jeffrey Bailey to give them the first aid that may have saved their lives.

A military investigation is now under way and if those details bear out, it's an incredible tale of bravery and fortitude that should be recognized by us all.

Franklin, though, disagrees.

"His official stance on the matter," says Edmonton friend Greg Scratchley, "is that since he was well beyond incapacitated during the event, any suggestion of actions 'heroic' or 'valourous' are likely unsupported -- or unsubstantiated.

"He does not believe that the event warrants such consideration as their mission to protect Glyn Berry was ultimately unsuccessful."

But a campaign on the Internet views it far differently.

"This is a degree of military heroism in the face of hostile enemy action, which is truly beyond normal and is commendable in the extreme," writes Steve Janke in his blog, Angry(in the Great) White North.

"The shock must have been incredible ... yet keeping his head, he provided lifesaving first aid to himself, then began helping his comrades in arms. This man is heroic in every sense of the word. Should he not be a candidate for the Victoria Cross (Canada)?"

No one has been awarded Canada's version of the Victoria Cross since it was created in 1993.

It replaces the original British Victoria Cross awarded to 94 brave Canadians in conflicts between 1856 and the end of World War II.

Franklin and his two wounded colleagues arrived back in Canada Tuesday and are being treated at Edmonton's University of Alberta Hospital.

Scratchley says he is not surprised that his friend is being touted for the highest decoration that can be awarded to a member of the Canadian Forces.

"In the seven years I've known Paul, he has been dedicated to three things above all else -- his family, this country, and our military," Scratchley wrote in an e-mail before visiting Franklin late Wednesday night. "He is a proud soldier -- proud Canadian, and proud father. That said, I can only imagine that he would suggest himself unworthy of the honour."

The department of national defence is currently investigating the details of what happened on the Kandahar road that day.

"It's way too early to speculate," says Capt. Stephanie Godin in Ottawa.

If Franklin were recommended for the award, he would follow in the grand tradition of another Canadian medic -- World War II Cpl. Fred "Toppy" Topham -- whose Victoria Cross was nearly lost to Canada a year ago.

Topham treated his wounded comrades on March 24, 1945, while under two hours of enemy fire, even after suffering a gunshot wound to his face.

But his heroism was not done.

On his way back to his unit, he came upon a burning armoured Bren carrier. Alone, he pulled all three injured soldiers to safety even as the carrier's mortar rounds exploded and enemy gunfire rained down around them.

Toppy's medal is now in the Canadian War Museum in Ottawa after the 1st Canadian Parachute Battalion and the Toronto Sun raised $275,000 to keep the award out of the hands of a British collector.

Shane Smith helped lead the Toronto EMS fundraising efforts, which contributed almost $2,000 to retaining Topham's Victoria Cross in Canada.

After hearing of Franklin's reported bravery, he believes his fellow medic should be considered for a VC as well. "I don't see a great deal of difference in what Cpl. Topham did and what Master Cpl. Franklin did," says Smith, EMS communications supervisor. "Without any regard to his own safety he continued his duties as a battleground medic."

Meanwhile, Franklin -- his left leg amputated -- remains in intensive care as doctors now try to save his shattered right leg.

"For our families -- the Victoria Cross would only remind us of how we already feel about Paul," Scratchley says, "but it would serve to show the rest of our country and the world the kind of men and women we have standing abroad, fighting for what is right and just with valour and honour."

And remind us that real heroes do exist after all.

Paul Synnott at 3:05 p.m.    | en francais | Go to Top|


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