Apiata makes first post-Army appearance
Thu, 16 Aug 2012 6:18p.m.
By Patrick Gower
War hero Willie Apiata has made his first public appearance since quitting the Army.
He went to the official opening of a display of New Zealand's Victoria Crosses, taking place just as speculation rises about whether one of the heroes of the latest Afghanistan firefight, L/Cpl Rory Malone, could be in line to receive the honour posthumously.
As a private citizen, today Mr Apiata – without his trademark moustache – went public with his wife, Sade Waikato, and their baby.
He took a look back at the history of Victoria Cross winners, an elite list of which he is the latest member.
He was not giving interviews, however.
The question now is whether another name may posthumously be added to the list after it was revealed L/Cpl Malone dragged not one, but two of his comrades to safety – and was shot dead during the second rescue.
"Much too early to tell," says Chief of Defence Lt Gen Rhys Jones. "We are still doing our after-action review."
The battle commander, Major Craig Wilson, was the first man saved by L/Cpl Malone after he was shot in the shoulder near the neck.
"In every battle or gunfight there is usually bravery around, but none of us were there so we just have to take a look at it," says Lt Gen Jones.
Major Wilson's evidence will therefore be key, just as it was for Mr Apiata's medal.
3 News revealed this week that Major Wilson was also the SAS battlefield commander the day Mr Apiata won the Victoria Cross, and MajorWilson won New Zealand's third-highest medal, the New Zealand Gallantry Decoration.
Both men were under heavy fire and Wilson has recalled how "in the light of his burning vehicle I could see Willie firing a machine gun".
While off camera today, Mr Apiata simply told 3 News:" It was pretty hard out, bro." The fight claimed the lives of L/Cpl Malone and L/Cpl Pralli Durrer, while three of the injured are now at home with their families.
Major Wilson and the two other remaining injured are en route to New Zealand now.
"Wilson is by far the worst of the injuries," says Lt Gen Jones.
So Mr Apiata was keeping in character and keeping quiet, and the Defence Force was also not giving much away about whether L/Cpl Malone could join them as a winner of the Victoria Cross.
Mr Apiata attended L/Cpl Malone's funeral yesterday and the bond they have, may become closer yet.
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16/08/2012 10:53:37 p.m.
You don't WIN a Victoria Cross, it is recommended and then if approved it is received by the person or posthumously. Win is a poor use of words from reporters. You think our army go out to compete for a medal like the olympics, I don't think so - I doubt loosing your life counts as being first across the invisible finish line.
16/08/2012 8:08:28 p.m.
Looks differant without the mo aye
16/08/2012 7:08:57 p.m.
S Lewis wrote:
You don't win a Victoria cross it's awarded.
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