Canadian War Hero Pte. Jess Randall Larochelle dies, Community continues to push for Victoria Cross recognition

Former Pte. Jess Randall Larochelle, a Canadian soldier whose exceptional heroism in Afghanistan earned him the Star of Military Valour, the country’s second-highest citation for bravery, has passed away on August 31, 2023. Larochelle’s remarkable story is marked by his unwavering courage during a pivotal moment in the war, but even in death, his legacy is intertwined with a passionate effort to see his accomplishments honored with the Canadian Victoria Cross.

The news of Pte. Jess Randall Larochelle’s passing reverberated through social media late Thursday, as his brother Andrew shared the heartbreaking announcement. Friends and fellow soldiers within the veterans community subsequently confirmed this somber news. The cause of his death was not immediately disclosed, though Larochelle had struggled with his health for several years following his military service.

Facebook post state:

With great sadness we mourn the passing of one of Canada’s greatest sons. Last night we lost Star of Military Valour Recipient Jess Larochelle. We knew his health had been deteriorating these last three years but it does not make it any easier. Our condolences to his family especially his mum Anna and brother Andrew. We ask that the family be given the privacy to mourn the loss of their loved one.

– Wrote by Valour in the Presence of the Enemy

The Quest for Recognition

A group of former soldiers, self-dubbed “Valour in the Presence of the Enemy,” has persistently advocated for the federal government and the Department of National Defence to revisit Larochelle’s citation and elevate it to the highest combat honor, the Canadian Victoria Cross. Despite their relentless efforts and newly revealed information about Larochelle’s actions on October 14, 2006, in Pashmul, west of Kandahar City, the senior leadership of the Canadian Armed Forces has not seen fit to upgrade his award.

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In the wake of this sad news, Larochelle’s family has asked for privacy during this difficult time. They have also shared that, in accordance with his wishes, there will be no traditional funeral. Instead, there will be a “hangout at the campfire,” a tribute to one of his favorite activities.

Retired Corporal Bruce Moncur, a former comrade of Larochelle, fondly recalled the warm welcome he received from Jess before their deployment to Afghanistan. Moncur, along with retired General Rick Hillier, has been at the forefront of the campaign to upgrade Larochelle’s award to the Canadian Victoria Cross, an honor that has never been bestowed in its modern form. Moncur described Larochelle as a “superhero” and emphasized the lasting impact of his actions in 2006.

The Courageous Stand

On October 14, 2006, Private Larochelle, serving with the 1st Royal Canadian Regiment Battle Group, manned an observation post that was tragically destroyed by an enemy rocket in Pashmul, Afghanistan. Despite being alone, severely injured, and exposed to sustained enemy fire, Larochelle valiantly provided crucial covering fire for his company’s otherwise undefended flank. In the face of overwhelming odds, his heroic actions allowed his company to defend their positions successfully and repel an attack by more than 20 insurgents. Larochelle’s bravery unquestionably saved numerous lives within his company, and his memory will forever be etched in the annals of Canadian military history.

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