Sunday 4 December 2016

Military heroes are honoured for their service on vital missions rescuing lives

Published 17/10/2016 | 02:30

Defence Minister Paul Kehoe presents the medal to Pte Sonya Larrigan from Dundalk, the only female crew member of the LE Eithne during the humanitarian mission rescuing migrants in the Mediterranean. Photo: Mary Browne
Defence Minister Paul Kehoe presents the medal to Pte Sonya Larrigan from Dundalk, the only female crew member of the LE Eithne during the humanitarian mission rescuing migrants in the Mediterranean. Photo: Mary Browne

Sixty military heroes who risked their safety to rescue others from death and disease have been honoured by the Government.

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They became the first recipients of a new medal designed to recognise members of the Defence Forces who served overseas in humanitarian missions.

Getting ready for the presentation ceremony. Photo: Mary Browne
Getting ready for the presentation ceremony. Photo: Mary Browne

Six of the group were deployed in Sierra Leone in an international initiative to tackle the ebola virus, which had already claimed 4,500 lives in what threatened to become a global epidemic.

The world decided to take action in late October 2014 and, thanks to the bravery of the volunteers, who included the small Irish contingent, the outbreak was brought under control by the June 2015.

The other 54 comprised the crew and army medics on board the Naval Service vessel, LE Eithne, who were the first Irish contingent to join Operation Pontus, which was set up to rescue migrants in the Mediterranean.

Minister with responsibility for defence Paul Kehoe presented the group with their special operational service medals at a ceremony at Rosslare, Wexford on Saturday.

Commander Pearse O'Donnell said upwards of 14,000 migrants had been rescued by Naval Service vessels and if the Defence Force personnel had not been there, those people might not have survived.

He said it had been a tough assignment for the crew but they had "stood up well" to the tasks they confronted.

Irish Independent

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