SYDNEY (AP) — An Australian special forces soldier who died under heavy fire in Afghanistan will be awarded the British Commonwealth’s highest military honor, drawing praise on Thursday from the nation’s prime minister for his heroic courage and devotion.
Cpl. Cameron Baird, who died June 22, 2013, will be granted a posthumous Victoria Cross, which rewards bravery under enemy fire, Prime Minister Tony Abbott announced in an address to Parliament.
‘‘This is a bittersweet day,’’ Abbott said. ‘‘Bitter because a fine man is gone and cannot be brought back. Sweet because he died for his mates, doing what he lived for.’’
Baird, a decorated soldier who also served in Iraq and East Timor, was on his fifth tour of duty in Afghanistan last year when he was killed during a clash with insurgents. He repeatedly drew fire away from his comrades and charged the enemy under heavy fire, Abbott said.
‘‘Words can hardly do justice to the chaos, confusion and courage that were evident that day,’’ Abbott said.
Baird, the 40th Australian soldier killed in the Afghanistan conflict, was awarded the Victoria Cross ‘‘for most conspicuous acts of valor, extreme devotion to duty and ultimate self-sacrifice,’’ Abbott said.
Brendan Baird thanked his brother’s comrades in the Sydney-based 2nd Commando Regiment for their support.
‘‘Cameron never liked the limelight,’’ Brendan Baird said. ‘‘He was a very humble man who would not see this as an individual award, but a recognition of all at 2 Commando.’’
Governor-General Quentin Bryce will present the honor to Baird’s parents at a ceremony next week.