As a 17-year-old army recruit, Corporal Daniel Keighran VC would stand to attention outside his room each morning and stare at the portrait of Albert Jacka, one of Australia’s most famous Victoria Cross recipients from the First World War.
“I have a vivid memory of getting off the bus at Kapooka on my first day in the Australian Army and being assigned to 32 Platoon amid much yelling and screaming,” he said.
“In our barracks was the Hallway of Valour, funnily enough, so every morning when we’d run into Hallway 32, with your bed sheet over your shoulder, there was Albert Jacka across from me, and I would stand there reading and rereading his citation, or the others around it, as we were doing roll call and I was waiting to hear my number yelled out.”
Little could he have imagined that one day his photograph would appear alongside that of Albert Jacka’s. But that’s exactly what happened. Ten years ago, on 24 August 2010, Daniel repeatedly exposed himself to enemy fire during a three-hour battle in the village of Derapet in Afghanistan, identifying targets and drawing fire away from his mates who were trying to save the life of a mortally wounded comrade. For his actions that day, Daniel became the 99th Australian to be awarded the Victoria Cross, the pre-eminent award for acts of bravery in wartime and Australia’s highest military honour.
“I look back and think I was just doing my job that day,” he said.
“I probably should have been killed doing what I was doing. I could see the bullets strike the ground in front of me and behind me, and I could hear them fly past my head …
“And then the Victoria Cross came along and changed everything; how could it not?”