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May - August,  2005


By Snow

March 19, 2005  

At a time of heightening xenophobia and anti-immigrant hysteria in the United Kingdom and the European Union, a 25-year-old Grenadian immigrant who only arrived in London on the eve of the new millennium received the UK 's highest award, the Victoria Cross (VC), for gallant service to the British Army.  Private Johnson Gideon Beharry risked his life on two separate occasions in incredible acts of bravery under fire near the British-occupied city of Basra , Iraq last year.   

Johnson Gideon Beharry was born in St Marks, Grenada on July 27, 1979 , a few Private Johnson Gideon Beharrymonths after the Grenada Revolution - a moment of great expectation in his nation.   Beharry migrated to the UK in August 1999 and enlisted in the Princess of Wales's Royal Regiment in August 2001 after spending some time as a construction worker.  Private Beharry had a stint in Kosovo and three months in Northern Ireland, before being deployed to Iraq in April 2004, where, according to his VC citation, "[he] displayed repeated extreme gallantry and unquestioned valor, despite intense direct attacks, personal injury and damage to his vehicle in the face of relentless enemy action."  

Yet to recognize the accomplishment of a fellow Grenadian is not to lose sight of the time-tested maxim that "In war, there are no unwounded soldiers."   A medal of recognition for service in British imperial exploits, only a limited amount of VC medals are cast [1,355] from a stash of prized bronze from captured Russian guns during the 1854 Crimean war of conquest.  VC honoree's theatres of operation are splattered across the globe - Africa, Russia , Afghanistan , the Americas , South East Asia – mirroring what would subsequently become British colonies.  Pte Johnson Beharry is the first living recipient of the cross since 1965 and the first VC since 1982 (a trophy for valor in the Falkland Island contest).  

Our humanity and selflessness should remind us that in the midst of thousands of Iraqi deaths since the invasion and occupation, there are hundreds of thousands of valorous, patriotic, and gallant acts by ordinary Iraqi men, women and children that we have yet to hear about.  The Bob Marley reminder that a “hero is (hardly) recognized in his own land” must ring home to Beharry, if for nothing else, because of his home country's experience with conquest and negation of home-made valor.  There is yet to be formal recognition of the many Grenadians who committed outstanding acts of patriotism and bravery during the US invasion of 1983.  As Private Beharry reflected, with greatest humility, "Maybe I was brave, I don't know. I think anyone else could do the same thing."   

As we recognize Pte Beharry, good manners should instruct us to likewise salute the thousands of Iraqis bearing the cross of conquest, a history emblazoned with blood.  We know about Pte Johnson Beharry only because he was a young man of great courage and selflessness who was born in Grenada and employed by an imperial power.   

We celebrate with Johnson Gideon Beharry because every life saved on the battlefield is a history that can be told and a family preserved.  Pte Johnson Beharry is married to Lynthia, his childhood sweetheart and a fellow Grenadian.  His parents live modestly in Grenada with his four brothers and two sisters.   

Beharry survives to tell… We are glad he is still with us.  "It takes a lotta stories to make a nation".

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