British soldier's bravery provides inspiration to all

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

"Better to die than live a coward" is the motto of the Royal Gurkha Rifles, a storied regiment of the British Army, recruited from the people of Nepal.

They do not take their motto lightly.

Consider Cpl. Dipprasad Pun, who was an acting sergeant, halfway through his tour in Afghanistan, when he found himself on sentry duty when he thought he heard a donkey or cow, making a clinking noise just outside his base.

Instead, he found it was two insurgents, digging a trench to lay an improvised explosive device at the front gate. He was surrounded by at least 30 Taliban fighters, preparing to overrun the compound.

"I had so many of them around me that I thought I was definitely going to die, so I thought I'd kill as many of them as I could before they killed me," said Pun, 31, married and a third generation fighter.

As the attackers destroyed his sentry post, Pun climbed to the roof of the base, where he was under continuous attack from rocket-propelled grenades and AK47s for more than a quarter of an hour.

At one point, he turned around to see a "huge" Taliban fighter looming over him, but Pun dispatched him with a long burst from his machine gun. When another insurgent tried to climb to the roof, Pun found his SA80 rifle had jammed, or was out of ammunitation.

He grabbed a sandbag to throw, but the contents simply spilled out. He then grabbed the metal tripod of his machine gun and threw it, showing "Marchu talai," ("I will kill you!" in Nepali).

When two more insurgents attacked, the Gurkha had used up all his ammunition except for the claymore mine he set off to repel them. By the time the attack was over, he had fired off 250 general purpose machine gun rounds, 180 SA80 rounds, six phosphorous grenades, six regular grenades, five underslung grenade launcher rounds and that Claymore mine.

He would have used his traditional Kukri knife that Gurkhas carry, but he had left it in his locker.

Pun was credited with saving the lives of three comrades at the checkpoint at that time, and preventing the position from being overrun.

Last June, Pun was presented the Conspicuous Gallantry Cross by Queen Elizabeth II, a medal second only to the Victoria Cross as the highest honor Great Britain can bestow.

Fighters like Cpl. Dipprasad Pun ensure that another saying will remain true: "There will always be an England."

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