Dan Keighran's veteran story

Daniel (Dan) Keighran joined the Australian Army on 5 December 2000. After completing recruit and initial employment training, he was posted to 6th Battalion, The Royal Australian Regiment (6 RAR).

While serving with 6 RAR, Dan deployed to Rifle Company Butterworth, Malaysia, in 2001 and 2004; Timor-Leste (East Timor) in 2003-04; Iraq in 2006; and Afghanistan in 2007 and 2010.

On 24 August 2010, during his second Afghanistan deployment, Dan was part of an Afghan and Australian fighting patrol engaged by a numerically superior and coordinated enemy force near the village of Derapet in the Uruzgan province of Afghanistan. For his actions on this day, Dan was subsequently awarded the Victoria Cross for Australia.

During a 3.5 hour engagement, Dan repeatedly exposed himself to heavy enemy fire to help in target identification and the treatment and clearance of one of his wounded comrades. He recalled assessing the risk before undertaking his action and says, "I don't think what I did was really brave. It was what was required at the time".

Dan attained the rank of corporal and remains an active member of the Army Reserve.

Army veteran

Transcript

Defining courage

Look, courage to me is, for everyone, a little bit different. There is physical courage and there is also the courage to come forward when something is not going quite right and to stand up when everyone else may be going the opposite way and say "No, hang on, that"s not quite right".

So there are two forms of courage I suppose and for me being in Defence, I suppose, the physical courage or that aspect of it is easier to explain because it"s pretty straightforward. When you do something on the battlefield, it can be observed and people recognise when that goes down.

VC action

I was awarded the Victoria Cross for actions on 24 August, 2010 in Afghanistan in a village called Derapet, Uruzgan province and it was for a three and a half hour firefight contact and during the course of that operation one of my mates was wounded, he took a round to the left hand shoulder.

It was at the point when we were pretty much outnumbered, we were about 40 people strong on the ground and we were facing well over 100 Taliban fighters and my actions I suppose, you know I had no other courses of action available to me or that"s how I saw it, so I drew fire onto myself to enable them to, one, to work on the casualty and, two, to potentially identify targets to help assist in targeting them as I drew fire away from the guys treating him. I did this numerous times and I was awarded, or was nominated for Australia"s highest military honour.

Assessing the risk

Well that"s a tough one because I reflect on that often and it was necessary, I felt I had no other courses of action available to me at that point of time. I certainly wouldn"t recommend people doing it, however for me, you know, it was a conscious decision of, well, this is how I justified it.

I had a helicopter coming in to pick up my mate already, I had qualified medics in my team around me who could look after me if something happened to me and I had plates, ballistic plates, front and back, and I hoped that if I got hit I"d get hit in the plate rather than actually hit me, so it was a decision based on those things, it wasn"t just this is what I am going to do, so it was a thought process and a plan even though it did occur really quickly before I did what I did. So bravery for me, I don"t really think what I did was really brave, it was what was required at the time.

A team effort

You know, we didn"t obviously seek out these awards. It"s great that the members of your team or your peers essentially nominate you for this and it"s gone through all the process all the way to the Queen and back before it"s awarded but it is, every day is I suppose is a challenge with it.

For me it"s not my natural environment but it is expected and it would be, for me I think it would be, reflecting back, you know, considering that we lost someone in that particular battle as well, disrespectful to not, you know, to continue forward and to keep, not just what, you know, my team did but what the rest of them did that day and make people aware of what they did, I think that"s an important part of being a VC recipient.

Opportunities

I suppose meeting meeting people that I would never in a million years get a chance to meet so, you know, I could start name dropping but, you know, to see the Queen, people like that you'd never, I would never have had an opportunity to meet her without this. So, I mean, that's been certainly an interesting experience, extremely humbled, humbling and honoured to be able to do that.

Anzac Day and Remembrance Day

I've been told a few times from different reporters that, you know, events like Anzac Day and Remembrance Day are dying out but for me, who was lucky enough this year to attend the 99th anniversary or commemoration, I should say, of the landing at Gallipoli, to see some 40,000 people at the Australian War Memorial.

I can say that it is well and truly alive and to see continued support from the younger generation, I think that's, you know, that is such a positive thing and going forward and seeing more of the kids, grandkids wearing their fathers or grandfather's medals, I think that's where the direction is heading, as it as it always has, so, that'd be good thing to see in the future.


Last updated:

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DVA (Department of Veterans' Affairs) ( ), Dan Keighran's veteran story, DVA Anzac Portal, accessed 23 June 2024, https://anzacportal.dva.gov.au/stories/oral-histories/dan-keighrans-story
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