'Very special' soldier receives the VC

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The Independent Online

The Iraq war hero Johnson Beharry received Britain's top military honour, the Victoria Cross, from the Queen yesterday. She told him: "You're very special."

The Iraq war hero Johnson Beharry received Britain's top military honour, the Victoria Cross, from the Queen yesterday. She told him: "You're very special."

The monarch had just heard an account of the extraordinary bravery of the 25-year-old soldier, a former painter and decorator, who twice saved his colleagues.

"When I hear what I did, I can't really believe it was me," he said at the Buckingham Palace investiture. "But what I did was my choice: I knew I had to get everyone out because I wouldn't have been able to live with myself otherwise. I think it's the training that just kicks in."

Pte Beharry, of The Princess of Wales's Royal Regiment, outranked Britain's top soldier, General Sir Michael Jackson, for the day. The junior soldier's investiture took precedence over that of the general, who was knighted, receiving the honour of Knight Grand Cross of the Order of the Bath.

Pte Beharry is the first recipient of the Victoria Cross since the 1982 Falklands War, when Lieutenant Colonel H Jones and Sergeant Ian McKay received posthumous awards.

Still recovering from his wounds and bearing a scar across his forehead, he said: "I know I'm lucky to be alive. Every day in Iraq, when I went out on patrol, I thought I wouldn't be coming back. Then at the end of the day I thought: 'That was a lucky one'."

Born on the Caribbean island of Grenada, he was accompanied to the palace by his wife, Lynthia, and his aunt and uncle.

Of the future, Pte Beharry said: "I'm still receiving treatment, so I'm limited in what I can do. I hope to return to service but I don't know when. I would go back to Iraq if I had to."

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