Two Army Majors were on Friday decorated with the country's second highest peace-time gallantry medal Kirti Chakra, including one posthumously, for their bravery during counter-terrorism operations in Jammu and Kashmir.
President Pratibha Patil presented the medals that were among the 69 gallantry and service decorations including 23 Shaurya Chakras and 15 Param Vishist Seva Medals conferred on personnel from the Army, Navy, Air Force and other allied defence services at an investiture ceremony in New Delhi.
Major Amit Oscar Fernandes won the second highest gallantry medal for his raw courage, extreme determination and timely action in saving the lives of his comrades, while eliminating three hardcore terrorists in Baramulla on November 16, 2008.
He had, during a search and destroy operation, spotted the movement of terrorists only when they were close to him due to poor visibility and rough terrain.
But the army officer from 7 Maratha Light Infantry brought down effective fire on the terrorists killing two of them. The third terrorist charged at him, but Fernandes caught the weapon, snatched it and shot the former dead.
Major Suresh Suri had displayed conspicuous act of bravery, comradeship and exemplary leadership and ultimately sacrificed his life after evacuating his injured comrade, despite injuries suffered during a gunfight with terrorists in Jammu and Kashmir on September 22 last year.
Suri's wife Pallavi received the Kirti Chakra conferred on her husband posthumously. He was part of an inner cordon and along with three other ranks entered a house to search for the hideout of terrorists.
On the second floor of the house, he found the hideout and in an effort to nab the terrorists scaled the roof, but came under heavy fire. Despite getting injured, Suri retaliated with fire and lobbed a grenade, killing a terrorist and injuring another.
When other members of his team got injured, the Kumaon Regiment officer, who was serving with 13 Rastriya Rifles, ensured their safe evacuation before succumbing to injuries.
Among the 23 awardees of Shaurya Chakra, the third highest peace time gallantry medal, were Border Roads Organisation's Excavating Machinery Operator Satish Kumar, who had cleared a landslide without caring for his own life on a road considered the lifeline of Bhutan in August 2008.
Indian Air Force's Squadron Leader Harkirat Singh, a fighter pilot, too won the Shaurya Chakra for successfully handling an emergency while flying the MiG-21 Bison jets during a practice interception sortie in September 2008.
Singh was flying at a 4-km altitude when his engine failed, but the officer displayed exemplary courage and landed the aircraft safety during night conditions, exhibiting his piloting skills.
Ten of the 23 Shaurya Chakra awardees were conferred the medal posthumously and they were Lance Naik Sujit Babu V, Sergeant Mustafa Ali, BRO personnel Pritam Chand and Piar Chand, Rifleman Mohammed Abdul Amieen Bhat, Lt Satbir Singh, Naik Manoj Singh, Havaldar Vipan Thakur, Havaldar Thangjalet and Naval commando Chandra Shekhar.
Ali, an IAF flight engineer, had been killed after the helicopter he was in came under Maoist fire while transporting Election Commission officials and ballot boxes after polling in the Chhattisgarh Assembly Elections in November 2008.
The helicopter pilot, Sqn Ldr T K Chaudhri too won the Shaurya Chakra for piloting the chopper to safety in Jagadalpur despite coming under fire from the ultras and consequent damage to the aircraft's rotor blades, fuel tank and tail boom.
Patil also presented Param Vishist Seva Medals, the highest medal for distinguished service to 15 senior officers, including South Western Army Commander Lt Gen C K S Sabu, Western Naval Commander Vice Admiral Sanjeev Bhasin, IAF Training Command Air Officer Commanding-in-Chief Air Marshal V R Iyer, IAF Maintenance Command Air Officer Commanding-in-Chief P V Athawale and Armed Forces Medical Services Director General Lt Gen N K Parmar.
Uttam Yuddh Seva Medal was conferred on Lt Gen Rabindran Krishna Swamy and Lt Gen Bikram Singh for their service in the Jammu and Kashmir based 16 Corps and 15 Corps respectively.
These apart, the President also conferred a Bar to Ati Vishist Seva Medal and 26 Ati Vishisht Seva Medals on senior officers.