Quilt of Valour: ‘This is better than a medal’
Sarajevo, 1993, at the height of the Bosnian War, David Fitzpatrick was dug in behind enemy lines.
The three-year siege of the city was at one of its darkest points.
Through his scope, the master sharpshooter could see atrocities being carried out against civilians. “Women and children were being maimed,” he says. “There were babies...” He chokes back tears. He had the enemy in his sights. It would be an easy kill. “I was an expert at 800 metres. He was at 798 metres. I had a head shot. But I couldn’t get the green light.”
The rules of engagement set out under the Geneva Convention forced him to ease off the trigger.
As a member of the United Nations Protection Force, the Alexandria resident constantly struggled with the frustrating limitations placed on the peacekeepers.
But he was fair game during the fighting among Bosnians, Serbs and Muslims.
Working undercover to gather intelligence, he miraculously survived a head shot taken by an enemy sniper. A bullet went through his helmet, missing his left ear by millimetres, and tore through a UN flag behind him. “I was out cold. The sniper was 700 metres away. I am alive because the wind must have taken the bullet slightly to the right of my head,” Mr. Fitzpatrick recalls.
He recounted some of the horrors he experienced last Thursday at the Royal Canadian Legion branch in Alexandria, where he received a Quilt of Valour.
“That was one of the darkest times of our lives,” he says. “This makes me think of those horrific times, of those seven long months behind enemy lines,” says Mr. Fitzpatrick as he receives the quilt from Quilts of Valour -Canada Society representative Bonnie Frappier.
“Wow! This is better than a medal of honour,” he declares. Mr. Fitzpatrick later adds, he accepts the honour “on behalf of all Canadians, one nation, one people, for country.”
Mrs. Frappier, who lives in Montréal, made the presentation on behalf of the Ontario division of Quilts of Valour, an organization that supports injured Canadian Armed Forces members with quilts of comfort.
Mr. Fitzpatrick, who has openly spoken about the post-traumatic stress disorder he lives with, is one of about 13,000 current and former military personnel to be presented with the quilt.
“Because I was part of a top secret operation, we did not get a lot of recognition,” observes Mr. Fitzpatrick, who served from 1984 to 2002.
“I appreciate everything I have,” he says.
After she gives Mr. Fitzpatrick a hug, Mrs. Frappier reads from the card accompanying the comforter. The message reads “in recognition of your service and sacrifice for Canada and all Canadians, it is a privilege to honour and comfort you. Though we do not know the depth of your sacrifice to protect and defend our freedom we thank you. As a gesture of gratitude from a grateful nation, we present you with this Quilt of Valour.”
COMFORT FOR A WOUNDED WARRIOR: David Fitzpatrick, son Griffin and Bonnie Frappier admire the log cabin design of the Quilt of Valour that was given to Mr. Fitzpatrick Thursday at the Royal Canadian Legion hall in Alexandria.