Life story

The incredible life story of Australia’s other most decorated war hero, Daniel Keighran

Victoria Cross hero Daniel Keighran has always shown courage in difficult circumstances.

Decades before becoming a national treasure, Keighran grew up on dirt floors without electricity or money.

Born in Nambour and brought up in Lowmead – a small town about 80km from Bundaberg in regional Queensland – Keighran’s life could so easily have taken a different path.

Keighran’s fight against the Taliban has taken him across the world, including to East Timor, Malaysia, Iraq and Afghanistan.

Daniel Keighran, who received the Victoria Cross after serving in the Middle East, proposed to Casey Nixon at Magic Millions Raceday on the Gold Coast in January last year

Daniel Keighran, who received the Victoria Cross after serving in the Middle East, proposed to Casey Nixon at Magic Millions Raceday on the Gold Coast in January last year

The first person he ever knew to be shot was his own father – who first arrived on his doorstep after disappearing a decade earlier.

Out of the blue, he reconnected with Keighran’s mother, and the family all moved from the Sunshine Coast to the desert.

Still, Keighran considers himself lucky.

He had a loving mother and his only male constant was his grandfather – a WWII veteran.

By the time Keighran would make Australian history at just 27, he had been in the military for 10 years and had served in East Timor, Iraq and Afghanistan.

The Battle of Derapet took place in Afghanistan on August 24, 2010.

I was a leader in the field, so I got up and led from the front – the only way to do that was to draw enemy fire on me.

Keighran had been on the ground as part of “Operation Slipper”.

The young corporal was on patrol with the 6th Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment, when he and his Afghan patrol were overrun by Taliban fighters.

For nearly four hours the battle raged during which Keighran repeatedly exposed himself to heavy enemy fire to help identify targets and extricate the wounded.

He would lose his close companion, Lance Corporal Jared MacKinney, in the battle.

“I don’t think what I did was really brave. It was what was required at the time,” he said of his actions that day.

In 2012, Keighran became Australia’s third Victoria Cross recipient when Governor General Quentin Bryce presented him with the medal.

On Tuesday, Keighran was among veterans to attend the dawn service at Currumbin in Queensland.

Corporal Daniel Keighran VC and his wife Kathryn meet Queen Elizabeth II during an audience with her at Buckingham Palace on November 06, 2013 in London

Corporal Daniel Keighran VC and his wife Kathryn meet Queen Elizabeth II during an audience with her at Buckingham Palace on November 06, 2013 in London

Daniel Keighran receives the Victoria Cross in 2012

Daniel Keighran receives the Victoria Cross in 2012

Talk to SunriseKeighran again paid tribute to his grandfather, whom he credits with keeping him on track during his formative years.

“I was very lucky to have someone in my life who inspired me and I looked up to them and they were my hero and that person was my grandfather,” he said.

Keighran had always shared a special bond with his grandfather, who would teach him how to safely use firearms on fishing trips when he was a teenager.

It wasn’t until Keighran joined the Australian Defense Force aged 17 that his beloved grandfather began telling him about the ups and downs of war he had witnessed. .

The WWII gunnery sergeant had bombed his own troops out of misinformation during the war and lived his life dealing with the trauma of that incident.

When Keighran’s father returned unexpectedly, after abandoning his family for years, he and his sister were literally forced to live in a dirt shack.

“It was the house for a couple of years before we established property and real habitation there,” he told the ABC in 2020.

“It was my upbringing as a kid. I remember I drank water and used to filter it because it had mosquito larvae in it.

Despite the obvious hardships, Keighran embraced the freedom to roam the bush with a rifle slung over his shoulder.

Keighran thinks the 'Anzac spirit' remains alive and well today

Keighran thinks the ‘Anzac spirit’ remains alive and well today

Keighran is saluted by General David Hurley after receiving the Victoria Cross for Australia in 2012

Keighran is saluted by General David Hurley after receiving the Victoria Cross for Australia in 2012

Keighran’s stint in the armed forces was an obvious choice.

“There were no realistic employment options for this type of low socio-economic group,” he said.

“The army, or defense for me, was a way out. It was probably the only way out.

Keighran told Sunrise on Monday that he made the right decision.

“It made me a man, for sure,” he told Sunrise.

“The Defense Force was a great option for me to go and serve my country and I’m very proud to have done that for over a decade.”

Keighran said it took him a long time to come to terms with being among the elite to have been awarded the Victoria Cross.

The VC is the highest and most prestigious award in the UK honors system and has only been awarded to eight Australians since the end of the Second World War.

“It took me a long time to come to terms with that, I think. I think I’m just a normal guy doing what I thought was best in a chaotic situation in a combat zone in Afghanistan,” he said. -he declares.

“I was put in a situation where my team and one of my comrades were in danger and I took action. And I would do it again.

Keighran proposes to Casey Nixon during the Magic Millions race on the Gold Coast in 2021

Keighran proposes to Casey Nixon during the Magic Millions race on the Gold Coast in 2021

Daniel Keighran VC attending an afternoon tea reception for members of the Victoria Cross in London in 2014

Daniel Keighran VC attending an afternoon tea reception for members of the Victoria Cross in London in 2014

Reminiscing about the battle, Keighran painted a picture of utter calm amid utter madness.

“I was very present at that time and I think for me it was, I was in a position where I could see people struggling and I was in a position where I thought I could change the things,” he said.

“And I was a leader in the field, so I got up and led from the front – the only way to do that was to draw enemy fire on me. It was a risky option and I could have ended up being a victim that day and somehow I didn’t get killed. I should have been for what I did.

Since leaving the ADF, Keighran has moved on with a new life away from the chaos and carnage of war.

Last year he popped the question to Casey Nixon at Magic Millions Raceday on the Gold Coast.

Keighran published his book ‘Courage Under Fire’ in 2020 where he detailed the ups and downs of a military career and the toll it had on his personal life.

At the time of the 2010 battle, Keighran was engaged to his first wife Kathryn.

The couple had met in 2007 and Keighran was desperate for some free time to spend with his partner.

The army refused and Keighran was released and left in mid-2011.

He would later suffer from exhaustion from subsequent media tours, endless formal engagements, speaking tours and his itinerant job at Australian Defense Apparel.

Her marriage suffered and Keighran and Kathryn divorced in 2019.

The war hero admitted in the book that he has come a long way since that time.

“I’m out now; things fell into place that weren’t when I was at the end of writing,” he wrote.

“I finished college, I have a professional career, I’m in a new relationship. I wouldn’t have had those things without having the VC.

Keighran published his book 'Courage Under Fire' in 2020 where he detailed the ups and downs of a military career and the toll it had on his personal life

Keighran published his book ‘Courage Under Fire’ in 2020 where he detailed the ups and downs of a military career and the toll it had on his personal life



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