Abode of the brave: the PWV | Sunday Observer

Abode of the brave: the PWV

There is an Old Norse myth which states that at the end of all battles a female rider named Valkyrie rides a black horse. The rider looks intensely for those soldiers who died with gallant honour and picks them up to a celestial abode. Sri Lanka is enjoying the fruits of peace and prosperity. As I once read at the Arlington National Monument “Freedom is not free’. Our nation was deeply stained with the blood of many and among them are 29 brave men of the Army, Navy and Air Force. There were also others from the Police and STF who paid the supreme sacrifice.

The Parama Weera Vibhushanaya is the highest medal for individual gallantry awarded to members of the armed forces: thus far the 29 men who were bestowed this medal are all dead or confirmed missing in action. The recipients of this medal are recommended by field commanders who submit the details to a medal board who makes a final recommendation to the President. It is the President who finally endorses this unique military honour of PWV. The Presidential proclamation reads “ Individual acts of exceptional gallantry and bravery performed on a service person’s own initiative while on active service, without any regard for their own life or well-being’. Often it’s the widowed wife, child or parent of a dead officer who accepts the medal at a state occasion.

The officers and other ranks who have received this medal are-

1. Captain. S U Aladeniya, 2. Corporal Y G G Kularatne, 3. Second Lieutenant K W T Nishshanka, 4. Staff Sergeant H P B Gunasekara, 5. Lance Corporal W I M Seneviratne, 6. Lieutenant Colonel A F Lafir, 7. Captain G S Jayanath, 8. Lieutenant Colonel. J .A. L Jayasinghe, 9. Major K A Gamage , 10. Captain U G A S Samaranayake, 11. Captain H G M K I Megawarna , 12. Sergeant H G S Bandara, 13. Corporal P N Suranga, 14. Corporal P M N Pushpa Kumara, 15. Corporal D M S Chandrasiri Bandara, 16. Lance Corporal K Chandana, 17. Private R M D M Ratnayake, 18. Lance Corporal A M M P Abeysinghe, 19. Lance Corporal A M B H G Abeyratne Banda (youngest recipient aged 19 years at time of death), 20. Private T G R Dayananda, 21. Lieutenant P N Punsiri, 22. 2ndLieutenant W D Jayathilake, 23. Sergeant K G N L R Perera, 24. Corporal K P D T Gunasekara, 25. Lance Corporal H A Nilantha Kumara, 26. Lance Corporal S V A M Pushpamal, 27. Lieutenant J L D S Wijetunge (SL NAVY), 28. Petty Officer K G Shantha (SL NAVY), 29. Squadron Leader T D S Silvapulle (SLAF)

Among these names some stand out while every man paid with his life to uphold the integrity of the motherland. One of the famous soldiers from this list is Corporal Gamini Kularatne the first recipient of the PWV medal, who became known as the “Hasalaka Hero”: he was a member of the garrison that was under siege at Elephant Pass, when an explosive laden terrorist bulldozer advanced towards the camp.

Seeing the great threat from this impending attack he ran towards the vehicle with 2 hand grenades and blasted the reinforced turret and was thrown down. By crippling the vehicle Gamini saved hundreds of lives.

The first and only officer to receive the PWV for the Air Force is Wing Commander Tyronne Sivapulle. He was a helicopter pilot and was flying an MI-24 gunship when they spotted a flotilla of terrorist boats. Tyronne, a Squadron Leader at that time chased the flotilla attacking them. It is believed that his chopper was hit by an anti aircraft missile and they crashed into the Kilali lagoon.

Lieutenant Commander Jude Wijethunge is the first Navy officer to be decorated with the PWV medal. He was the officer in charge of Dvora P-458 escorting a navy transport ship. The sea convoy was ambushed by terrorist suicide boats, and his crew fought until only Wijethunge was left. Thought injured he intercepted an enemy boat and both boats exploded killing him instantly. By his actions he had saved the lives of the others in the convoy. In remembering these officers and soldiers we must realize that they died for all Sri Lankans. We must never again be divided by any reason, but must remain united to ensure that peace prevails. These men died to protect that peace.