THE people of Yacata in Cakaudrove have paid homage to the only Fijian to be awarded the Victoria Cross, Corporal Sefanaia Sukanaivalu, with the unveiling of a memorial on June 23.
The VC is the highest military decoration awarded for valour "in the face of the enemy" to members of the armed forces of various Commonwealth countries, and previous British Empire territories.
While the story of the late Cpl Sukanaivalu's bravery has been retold many times, a physical embodiment to honour his bravery has never existed in his village.
All that changed when Vatuvara Limited and the people of his village and birthplace of Yacata erected a memorial and plaque in his honour.
During the solemn ceremony at Yacata, a bugler sounded the Last Post and the memorial was blessed by elders of the church before it was unveiled.
Vatuvara Ltd general manager Rob Miller said the company decided to fund the memorial and plaque after realising the Fijian hero had no memorial to commemorate his ultimate sacrifice. He said the villagers of Yacata and Vatuvara Ltd would always celebrate Sukanaivalu Day on June 23 — the anniversary of Corporal Sukanaivalu's death.
"We do a lot of work with the people of Yacata Island. Currently, Vatuvara Ltd is developing the neighbouring island of Kaibu, so we bring a lot of them across to work and they return at the end of the day," Mr Miller said.
"So we thought it would be good for the people of Yacata to have some sort of memorial for Corporal Sukanaivalu," he said.
The unveiling of the plaque was attended by police director of operations Senior Superintendent Rusiate Tudravu with Epineri Seibouma and members of the Republic of Fiji Military Forces and the Fiji Police Force.
Cpl Sukanaivalu received the Victoria Cross after he sacrificed his life to save the men in his platoon who refused to leave him behind after he was seriously wounded.