Back to work: Trooper Mark Donaldson VC is to return to active service.
Back to work: Trooper Mark Donaldson VC is to return to active service. Tracey Nearmy

Dorrigo-born war hero rejoins unit

DORRIGO-born Trooper Mark Donaldson VC wants to get back to business.

The Young Australian of the Year has declared he does not want to do any more public relations tasks and would like to rejoin his Special Air Service unit in Afghanistan.

In a Senate estimates hearing on Monday, defence chief Angus Houston confirmed Australia’s newest Victoria Cross holder had made a decision to turn down his ‘PR role’ in favour of his full-time job as a serving member of the army’s elite Special Air Service Regiment (SASR).

Since being awarded the VC, Donaldson last year had an audience with the Queen and has been in huge demand across the country – but public demands have meant interruptions to demanding training required as a serving member of the SAS.

The defence chief said the decision was supported by his commanding officer and there was no restriction to Trooper Donaldson returning to active service if he chose – something previous VC recipients have been able to do.

Trooper Donaldson is the first Australian recipient of the Victoria Cross – our highest military medal for heroism – since Keith Payne’s Vietnam VC in 1969.

Serving with special forces and Afghan forces in September 2008, Trooper Donaldson’s group was ambushed by a heavily armed, larger Taliban unit.

As the group withdrew, under fire from rockets and automatic weapons, Trooper Donaldson repeatedly drew fire to allow the wounded to be loaded on to the trucks.

At the height of the battle, he realised a wounded Afghan interpreter had been left behind. Again under heavy fire, Donaldson crossed 80 metres of open ground to rescue his colleague, carrying him back to a vehicle where he provided critical first-aid.



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