Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Medal of Honor: Then and now

I’m glad America still takes time to honor some of its military heroes.

Several news media outlets have been covering this week’s annual convention of Medal of Honor recipients in Chicago.

According to the Congressional Medal of Honor Society, 3,447 individuals have received the medal. Ninety-five are still living.

The Medal of Honor got its start during the Civil War in 1862.

Its first recipients were six Union soldiers who took part in the “Great Locomotive Chase” in Georgia, where I live.

Pvt. Jacob Parrott (left) has the distinction of getting it first. The Congressional Medal of Honor Society cites the Ohioan “who, by direction of Gen. Mitchell (or Buell) penetrated nearly 200 miles south into enemy territory and captured a railroad train at Big Shanty, Ga., in an attempt to destroy the bridges and tracks between Chattanooga and Atlanta.”

The only female Medal of Honor recipient is Mary Edwards Walker, a Civil War surgeon.

A recipient acts "conspicuously by gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his [or her] life above and beyond the call of duty while engaged in an action against an enemy of the United States."

Six U.S. service members have been chosen for the Medal of Honor during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

During a ceremony Tuesday at Soldier Field, public and military officials called the medal recipients heroes.

"They're very special human beings," Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn said. "They're the best of the best. The pride of our nation."

Members of all branches of the U.S. military are eligible to receive the medal, and each service has a unique design with the exception of the Marine Corps and Coast Guard, which both use the Navy's medal.

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