20 Apr 2013

Bravery awards for soldiers who served in Afghanistan

8:20 am on 20 April 2013

The family of a soldier who died in Afghanistan say they are proud he has received a military honour in recognition of his courage.

Lance-Corporal Leon Smith has been posthumously awarded the New Zealand Gallantry Decoration, one of three soldiers to be given New Zealand Defence Force bravery medals.

Flight Lieutenant Benjamin Pryor and Acting Warrant Officer Dean Rennie received the New Zealand Gallantry Medal.

Lance-Corporal Smith died in action in September 2011 not long after beginning his second tour of duty in Afghanistan.

He is described as remaining calm under pressure and showing bravery when under attack from rebel fighters.

His mother Mary Smith says he was a fine young man who put others before himself.

Lance-Corporal Smith's father Steve Smith says this is not just an award for his son but recognition for the gallantry of all who have served in the SAS and the Defence Force in Afghanistan.

Flight-Lieutenant Pryor, who served as a helicopter pilot with Britain's Royal Air Force, has been honoured for actions to protect the lives of others while under intense fire.

He says he is very honoured to be recognised for his efforts and and is accepting the award on behalf of the team he worked with.

Acting Warrant Officer Rennie served in Afghanistan twice, helping to identify the makers of improvised explosive devices from hundreds of pieces of evidence found on patrols, and providing key intelligence about rebel operations.

He is back in Afghanistan teaching the local army, police and security forces.