Nov 11 2020
Opinion | Herald-Dispatch
The Medal of Honor is the highest military award for bravery that can be given to an individual in the United States of America. It is generally presented to its recipient by the president in the name of the Congress. Each service has its own regulations for judging individuals for receipt of the Medal of Honor. The deed must be proven by incontestable evidence of at least two witnesses; it must be so outstanding that it clearly distinguished the recipient’s gallantry beyond the call of duty from lesser forms of bravery; it must involve risk of their life; and it must be the type of deed which, if it had not been done, would not subject the individual to any justified criticism.
It was authorized by Congress and approved by President Abraham Lincoln on Dec. 21, 1861, for enlisted men of the Navy and Marine Corps. The Medal of Honor for Army and Volunteer forces was authorized on July 12, 1862.
There have been 3,507 individuals who have been awarded the Medal of Honor, of whom 69 are alive.
Assistant Surgeon General Bernard Irwin is credited with the earliest Medal of Honor action (Feb. 13-14, 1861), but Jacob Parrott, who was one of six Andrew Raiders receiving the medal, was the first man to actually receive the Army Medal of Honor on March 25, 1863, for his actions during “The Great Locomotive Chase” in 1862.
President Theodore Roosevelt was awarded the Medal of Honor posthumously from President William Clinton on January 16, 2001. President Roosevelt is the only president to have received this award.
President Harry S Truman presented 15 medals on Oct. 5, 1945. One of those receiving the award was West Virginia’s own Hershel “Woody” Williams for his valor at Iwo Jima. As President Truman stood before each of the 15 recipients he said, “I would rather have this medal than be president.”
Williams is the sole surviving Marine from World War II to wear the Medal of Honor. He created the Hershel Woody Williams Medal of Honor Foundation to consider and recognize the families of those who had lost a loved one in military service. In 2013, his foundation erected the first Gold Star Families Memorial Monument at the Donel V. Kinnard Memorial State Veterans Cemetery in Dunbar. The monuments have been erected in 48 states.
There have been 62 West Virginians who have received the Medal of Honor. Williams is the only surviving West Virginia recipient.
President Donald J. Trump has awarded 11 Medals of Honor.
God bless all those who have served their country in military service and those families who have had a loved one pay the ultimate sacrifice.
Thomas F. Lambert