Jess Larochelle | The Canadian Encyclopedia


Jess Larochelle

Jess Larochelle, soldier (born 1983 in Restoule, Ontario; died 30 August 2023 near Nipissing, Ontario). Private Jess Larochelle was a member of the 1st Battalion Royal Canadian Regiment. In 2007, he received the Star of Military Valour for his bravery during an engagement with Taliban fighters in Afghanistan. Since September 2021, there has been a campaign to award Larochelle the Canadian Victoria Cross.

Private Jess Larochelle

Early Life

Jess Larochelle was born in 1983 to Randall Larochelle and Anna Larochelle (née Guitard) in Restoule, Ontario. He had one brother, Andrew. After leaving school, he joined the Canadian army, becoming a private in “Charles” Company, 1st Battalion Royal Canadian Regiment.

Bravery in Afghanistan

In 2006, Larochelle was posted to Afghanistan. That year, the Royal Canadian Regiment began conducting counterinsurgency and combat operations in the southern province of Kandahar. In this phase of the war in Afghanistan, the Canadian battle group was tasked with rooting out Taliban insurgents in Kandahar city and the surrounding rural districts.

Soldiers in Afghanistan

On 14 October 2006, the 23-year-old Larochelle volunteered to man an observation post on his company’s flank. The rifle company was stationed at the time in Pashmul, west of Kandahar City, and was guarding a road being constructed between two Canadian forward operating bases in Kandahar province.

Larochelle was manning the observation post’s machine gun while nearby, members of his platoon dealt with a light armoured vehicle (LAV) that had been damaged by an improvised explosive device (IED). Around 3 p.m., they were attacked by a Taliban force equipped with rocket-propelled grenades and small arms. The observation post took a direct hit and Larochelle briefly lost consciousness. He awoke to discover that two of his company, Sergeant Darcy Tedford and Private Blake Williamson, were dead and three more gravely wounded. Larochelle himself was seriously injured, with broken vertebrae in his neck and back, a detached retina in one of his eyes and a blown eardrum.

In pain, partially deaf and with limited eyesight, Larochelle nevertheless mounted a brave and “aggressive” defence. He got the damaged machine gun working, but soon ran out of ammunition, turning instead to the post’s M-72 rocket launchers. In total, he fired 15 of the 66-mm rockets at a force of 20 to 40 Taliban insurgents armed with rifles, light machine guns and rocket-propelled grenades.

Larochelle’s actions helped save his wounded comrades and disrupted the Taliban attack. He provided covering fire on the company’s flank, which was otherwise undefended, and bought the company enough time to mount a defence. The Taliban were eventually forced to withdraw, having never reached their main target — the bivouacked rifle company.

Star of Military Valour

On 14 March 2007, Jess Larochelle was awarded the Star of Military Valour, the second highest award for military valour in the Canadian system of honours — after the Victoria Cross. The citation highlighted his bravery in the action of 14 October 2006:

Although he was alone, severely injured, and under sustained enemy fire in his exposed position at the ruined observation post, he aggressively provided covering fire over the otherwise undefended flank of his company’s position. While two members of the personnel were killed and three others were wounded in the initial attack, Private Larochelle’s heroic actions permitted the remainder of the company to defend their battle positions and to successfully fend off the sustained attack of more than 20 insurgents. His valiant conduct saved the lives of many members of his company.

The same day he received the Star of Military Valour, Larochelle was medically discharged from the Canadian army. In the opinion of many veterans and military historians, Larochelle’s citation for the Star of Military Valour compares favourably with that of Victoria Cross recipients who served in the First and Second World Wars.


Jess Larochelle suffered from poor health due to injuries suffered in the Afghanistan war, both physical and psychological (see also Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder in Canada). He died on 30 August 2023 at his home on Commanda Lake, just outside of Nipissing in the district of Parry Sound. Larochelle was only 40 years old.

Jess Larochelle


In September 2021, a campaign began to award Jess Larochelle the Canadian Victoria Cross. The honour, which was instituted in 1993, replaced the Victoria Cross, the highest military decoration in the Commonwealth. Australia instituted its own Victoria Cross in 1991 and has awarded it four times for actions in Afghanistan. New Zealand announced its version of the Victoria Cross in 1991 and has awarded it once for Afghanistan, while Britain has awarded the Victoria Cross to three individuals for their bravery in Afghanistan. Canada is the only country not to award its highest military decoration to a veteran of the war in Afghanistan. Indeed, the Canadian Victoria Cross hasn’t been awarded since its institution in 1993. The last Canadian to receive a Victoria Cross was Lieutenant Robert Hampton Gray, a naval pilot of the Second World War.

His valour on that day marked him as one of those rare individuals who inspire us all. In the years since his heroics, the richness of detail from those who were with him at that fight, including some whose lives were saved by Jess, demand a reassessment of his recognition and most probably an upgrade from Star of Military Valour to the Victoria Cross. (Retired general Rick Hillier, October 2023)

Thousands have supported the campaign to award Larochelle the Victoria Cross, such as the Royal Canadian Legion, other veterans’ organizations, individual veterans and ordinary Canadians. This includes Afghanistan veteran Bruce Moncur and his wife, MP Niki Ashton, former Conservative leader Erin O’Toole and retired general Rick Hillier. In May 2022, Ashton presented a petition to the Government of Canada on behalf of a group of Afghanistan veterans known as Valour in the Presence of the Enemy. The petition, which was signed by more than 14,000 supporters, asked the government to consider upgrading Larochelle to the Victoria Cross. Another 20,000 letters were sent in support of the petition. Although the request was denied, the campaign has continued.