A Canadian soldier who risked his own life by sprinting through a firefight to save an Afghan father and son received one of Canada’s top honours Thursday during a ceremony at Ottawa’s Rideau Hall.

Gov. Gen. David Johnston presented Thursday morning 45 military awards to Canadian and allied military personnel for valour and meritorious service.

Pte. Taumy St-Hilaire received one of Canada’s highest honours, the prestigious Star of Military Valour, which has been awarded to fewer than two dozen Canadians.

In April 2011, St-Hilaire engaged in a firefight with insurgents in the Panjwaii district of Southern Afghanistan. From his rooftop position, he noticed an Afghan civilian father and son pinned down by enemy fire. The Montreal native quickly took action.

"On his own initiative, and despite enemy aggression from three separate positions, he requested covering fire before going down to the exposed victims to lead them to shelter," a Rideau Hall statement read. "Private St-Hilaire's bravery and selflessness enabled him to save both lives and to quell the attack."

In addition to Canadian soldiers from across the country, two Americans and one member of the French Air Force were also decorated.

One U.S. soldier was honoured with the prestigious Medal of Military Valour. Spec. David Fletcher Graves, of Texas, was cited for holding off an attempt by insurgents to invade Kandahar Airfield.

Graves was conducting a training exercise at the base on Aug. 3, 2010 as part of the Canadian-led Task Force Kandahar when the invasion attempt took place. He and fellow soldier U.S. Staff Sgt. Adam Hever, sprang into action.

"Unarmed and under fire, Spec. Graves and Staff Sgt. Hever secured weapons and moved to a position of cover in order to engage the enemy. Despite intense enemy action, they maintained their position and delivered accurate return fire. Their courage, decisiveness and soldiering ability neutralized the attack and enabled friendly forces to find safety," the statement said.

Hever received his award at an earlier ceremony.

Johnston will also present 40 Canadian military members with Meritorious Service Crosses and Medals for achievements that have "brought honour to the Canadian Forces and to Canada."