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By New Zealand correspondent Peter Lewis and wires

http://www.abc.net.au/news/stories/2007/07/02/1967390.htm

A New Zealand soldier has been awarded the Victoria Cross for the first time since World War II.

Lance Corporal Willy Apiata was decorated for a life-saving act of bravery when his SAS unit came under attack in Afghanistan in 2004.

Lance Corporal Apiata's patrol came under attack from machine gun and grenade fire when it had taken cover for the night, setting two vehicles on fire, his citation notice said.

During the fight, Lance Corporal Apiata found himself isolated with two of his comrades, one of whom was badly wounded from shrapnel.

He carried his wounded comrade 70 metres to where the rest of his patrol had taken cover, despite being clearly visible by the light of the burning vehicles.

Prime Minister Helen Clark said his action epitomised the finest traditions of the New Zealand Defence Force.

"Corporal Apiata displayed stunning courage and selflesness, risking his life to save a colleague in a situation of extreme danger," she said.

Another three members of the SAS received other awards over the same incident, but their details were not released for operational security reasons.

The Victoria Cross is the highest award for valour for British and Commonwealth forces.
 
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