The unforgettable story of the first Victorian Cross recipient in decades.
On 2 September 2008, in a valley in eastern Afghanistan, Trooper Mark Donaldson made a split-second decision that would change his life. His display of extraordinary courage that day saw him awarded the Victoria Cross for Australia, making him the first Australian to receive our highest award for bravery in wartime since Keith Payne in 1969.
Yet Mark's journey to those crucial moments in Afghanistan was almost as exceptional as the acts that led to his VC.
He was a rebellious child and teenager, even before the death of his father - a Vietnam veteran - when Mark and his brother were in their mid-teens. A few years later, their mother disappeared, presumed murdered. Her body has never been found.
Mark's decisions could have easily led him down another path, to a life of self-destructiveness and petty crime. But he chose a different road: the army. It proved to be his salvation and he found himself a natural soldier, progressing unerringly to the SAS, the peak of the Australian military.
From his turbulent early years to the stark realities of combat in the mountains and valleys of Afghanistan, Mark's book is the frank and compelling story of a man who turned his life around by sheer determination and strength of mind.
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Recommendations for VC
I would never dispute this award of the VC to Mark Donaldson, after in excess of 26 years in the Australian Defence Forces I have had to process award recommendations on many occasions, and I have had access to literally hundreds of recommendations for honours and awards. Those honours and awards were written predominately by Australians, as well as allied forces.
One thing I ALWAYS noticed, and commented on many times was that on most occasions when a recommendation came in written up
by particular allied force members, the person writing up the report ALWAYS made the person being recommended appear to be the absolute best, no faults whatsoever and appear that he was Superman and Batman all wrapped up into one person.
In fact we did an exercise once, we had an allied force member together with an Australian Defence Force member write up an annual report recommendation, and also a recommendation for an Honour and Award, the Reports written up by the allied force member was far more glowing than the more conservative reports submitted by the Australian Defence Force member.
So, if there were two members in close sections being recommended for Honours and Awards, with one having an absolute glowing report written by certain allied force personnel, and the other being recommended by the more conservative Australian personnel, to ensure that the Australian was not disadvantaged, the recommendations were “weighted”
So, my belief is that Marks award being a VC would have needed to have gone “up to” a much more drawn out process than normal recommendations,incorporating a very long chain of command including CDF and Minister levels for further processing through to the GG. I would certainly refute any direct political intervention, apart from a chain of command.
If you're into the world of special forces and an amazing personal journey look no further than this audiobook. It will captivate you from the very start and keep you until the end! Would very much recommend this to anyone
Inspirational and yet questionable
A good story. After reading and listening to many American accounts of military experiences in Iraq and Afghanistan, it’s refreshing to listen to an Australian’s experiences. You also get a insight into the training and exploits of the Australian S.A.S. The author’s life story is also interesting, and inspirational. But I have to feel some questions about the awarding of the Victoria Cross. There is no doubt that what he did was very brave. But I have read and listened to many stories of soldiers experiences in the ‘War against Terror’. And I have read and listened to accounts that I perceive to have been more extreme and heroic than that of the author. And yet none of them were awarded with the Medal of Honour. Maybe there were some political reasons involved with his award.