Note: The attackers in Morrisburg are the same age as
many of the soldiers serving and returning soldiers of Afghanistan
Assault Leaves Soldier with Broken Foot, Nose
The Ottawa Citizen
Tuesday, March 13, 2007
MORRISBURG - A Canadian soldier honoured for braving enemy fire in Afghanistan returned to the town where he grew up and found himself facing homegrown foes -- four men who beat him up in a Morrisburg bar and then taunted him about his hero status.
Master Cpl. Collin Fitzgerald, who was awarded a Medal of Military Valour for his heroic actions by Gov. Gen. Michaelle Jean on Feb. 19, said witnesses told him one of his attackers said "what kind of f--king hero are you now" as he was being pulled off him.
Master Cpl. Fitzgerald had his foot broken in three places and needed 10 stitches to close a cut above his right eye. The 27-year-old soldier also suffered a broken nose, chipped tooth and black eye in the attack, which occurred just before 2 a.m. Saturday at Nick's Sports Bar.
He had only been in the bar about 30 minutes when he was struck from behind, he said yesterday from his home in Trenton.
Prior to the assault, Master Cpl. Fitzgerald said he had been at the bar, shaking hands and accepting congratulations from old friends while visiting with Shawn Hitsman, the brother of his fiancee, Stacey.
After regaining consciousness, Master Cpl. Fitzgerald said Mr. Hitsman and another friend, Bobby Paradis, helped him up and drove him to a hospital.
OPP Const. Paul Murphy said yesterday a 21-year-old Morrisburg male has been charged with aggravated assault. He has since been released from custody on a promise to appear in court. Since he has yet to appear in court, his name was not released.
Const. Murphy said more charges are expected to be laid against the 21-year-old. Police also expect to lay charges against several other suspects, he said.
After serving eight months in Afghanistan, Master Cpl. Fitzgerald said "not in a million years" did he expect to be jumped in a Morrisburg bar. He also never expected to be shown such disrespect for his military service.
"Ignorance is bliss. They obviously have no idea or any clue what the hell is going on over there," said Master Cpl. Fitzgerald, who has also served two tours in Bosnia. "We weren't just sitting in a camp. We're getting shot at. People are dying. Buddies of mine I've seen get blown up. They really don't have any clue and they don't know how lucky they have it here in Canada," he said.
Master Cpl. Fitzgerald's mother, Arlene Fitzgerald, said the attack has left her outraged.
"He came home in one piece from Afghanistan, and he gets beaten up like this in his own home town," she said. "He wants to be in a fight like he wants a hole in the head. He just came back from hell," she said.
Master Cpl. Fitzgerald's father Bryan said he hopes the people responsible for the attack are punished.
"They have no respect for the military ... they have no respect for anybody," said Mr. Fitzgerald. "They are ignorant, they are cowards."
Master Cpl. Fitzgerald, who is a weapons instructor at CFB Trenton, was among the first recipients of the Canadian Medal of Military Valour.
According to the Canadian Forces, Master Cpl. Fitzgerald was recognized "for outstanding selfless and valiant actions" carried out on May 24, 2006, during an ambush "involving intense, accurate enemy fire."
Master Cpl. Fitzgerald "repeatedly exposed himself to enemy fire by entering and re-entering a burning platoon vehicle and successfully driving it off the roadway, permitting the remaining vehicles trapped in the enemy zone to break free."
According to the military, Master Cpl. Fitzgerald's "courageous and completely selfless actions were instrumental to his platoon's successful egress and undoubtedly contributed to saving the lives of his fellow platoon members."
Master Cpl. Fitzgerald, who said he has since learned the identity of the people accused of attacking him, said he had never met them before.
"The last thing I was doing in there was trying to provoke a fight with somebody. I'm not the type of guy to play pokey-chest with somebody and then sit down and turn my back to him," he said.
"It's in the hands of the police now, but there is nothing more than I would like to do is grab this guy and put him in the hospital for a couple of months," said Master Cpl. Fitzgerald. "I think I have a right to be pissed off about it."