Heroes honoured for bravery

Two Defence Force heroes will be saluted today for putting their lives on the line while on duty.

Ohakea-based Squadron Leader Benjamin Mark Pryor and the late Lance Corporal Leon Smith, killed in action in Afghanistan in 2011, have been honoured this morning for their bravery.

Lance Corporal Smith, of the 1 New Zealand Special Air Service Regiment, was posthumously awarded the New Zealand Gallantry Decoration - the third highest medal recognises acts of exceptional gallantry in situations of danger - and Squadron Leader Pryor, of the air force, was awarded a New Zealand Gallantry Medal.

The investiture ceremony would be held at Government House in Wellington at 11am.

Squadron Leader Pryor was honoured for his actions as a helicopter pilot while seconded in Afghanistan last year.

He was captain of the lead Chinook helicopter of an eight-ship aviation assault with the Special Forces Support Group and flew casualty evacuation missions, including one where he had to keep his aircraft grounded under intense enemy fire and, despite his helicopter being hit three times, helped get troops to safety.

Lance Corporal Smith was honoured for his bravery when the New Zealand Special Air Service responded to an insurgent attack on the British Council compound in Kabul in August 2011. During the attack, he helped his wounded colleague Corporal Douglas Grant.

He was killed in action the following month.

His decoration was to be received by members of his family.

Manawatu Standard