Archive for Thursday, May 25, 2006

Memorial Day and heroes

May 25, 2006

With Memorial Day approaching, we need to think about our servicemen now as well as in history.

Presidents in the name of Congress have awarded more than 3,400 Medal of Honor recipients to our nation's bravest soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines and Coast Guardsmen, since the decoration's creation in 1861. President Lincoln signed into law on Dec. 21, 1861, legislation approving the Medal of Honor.

I recently got information that we have in Mount Calvary Cemetery, three Medal of Honor winners dating from the Indian War campaigns. What I thought was unusual was that all three were born in Ireland, were in different campaigns, in different parts of the country, yet buried in the same cemetery.

Pvt. Thomas Kelly received the Medal of Honor at Wichita, Texas, in 1874 for gallantry in action.

Cpl. Patrick Thomas Leonard, Company A, 23rd US Infantry, received his near Fort Hartsuff, Neb., on April 28, 1876, for gallantry in action.

And Sgt. Robert McPhelan, was awarded his Medal of Honor on April 27, 1877, at Cedar Creek, Mont., for gallantry in action.

There were other meritorious awards starting with Gen. George Washington; one, for gallantry, was a purple cloth heart and was bestowed on only three sergeants.\

There was a badge of military merit that was used until after the Civil War.

On Feb. 22, 1932, Gen. Douglas McArthur pressed for reinstituting the award that is now the Purple Heart. It was first an Army award given to those in World War l. In 1943 an order was amended to include personnel of the Navy, Marine Corps and Coast Guard. Coverage was eventually extended to include all services, and "any civilian national" wounded while serving with the armed forces.

The original intent of Memorial Day was to honor all fallen service men. A greater effort by all Americans should be made to observe this special day as it was intended.

Our Lansing Museum has a display about cemeteries in Leavenworth County. It would be a good thing for all Lansing people to visit their museum and look at the tombstone photos with interesting symbolic markings. The exhibit explains what these represent and it is truly fascinating.

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