Less well know, but along the same lines comes a quote two weeks ago from an official of the Naval History and Heritage Command, Communications and Outreach Programs, of the United States Navy.
If you read between the lines, you might assume that he too echoed President Kennedy's thoughts. His thoughts were perhaps on the relationship, the comradery, the respect, friendship and togetherness and trust between the citizens of both nations.
He said that..."immigrants from all over the world, of every religion, and of ethnicity, join the United States military and go on to serve their adopted country honorably, often heroically, sometimes making the ultimate sacrifice.
They have been doing so for as long as our country existed.
Here is the story of one such immigrant from our neighbor to the north who came to America 150 years ago, served in the Navy, was awarded our country's highest military honor, but who's bravery went unrecognized for 130 years at his last resting place."
This official and many more from the civilian and military worlds spoke in the highest of esteem about Nova Scotia born Joseph Noil, a recipient of the US Medal of Honor.
The speakers, and many more in the audience on 29 April at Washington DC, and those that could not be there, were joined by literally millions from across North America who read the news stories, read incoming emails, watched their TV sets or perhaps heard about the story on radio. The internet alone carried almost 60 hits.. and who knows how many face-book, twitter and other social media sites brought the world the story of how this man risked his life to save that of another shipmate.
Among many of the worker bees behind this project is the Medal of Honor Historical Society of the US, of which mention is often given in this space, and of which I am the lone Canadian member.
One of the goals of our society is to help find close to 400 "lost graves" of MOH recipients anywhere in the world. MANY MANY MANY have been found over the years, but there is much more work to be done. (You can do your part by letting me or the society know about the MOH grave you might know about. We are also interested in learning of graves that are almost unreadable or fail to identify the hero as a MOH recipient.)
Over many years I have been thrilled and honoured to have played roles, in some cases minor, in others, major, in the locating of graves of some of these heroes. So too in the arranging of new marker placement and the organizing of, and conducting of public ceremonies to unveil the markers and help to bring the story of these heroes back to life again.
Like Joseph Noil, Dennis Buckley was buried under a marker that spelled his name wrong for over 140 years. When found a new marker was arranged and a ceremony held in Georgia where he is buried. The following year a monument to him was unveiled in his home town. His old Georgia marker is at left, and above with the corrected one, at right. It was unveiled in April of 2007.
In Benjamin's case, his California marker, like many in his family, simply had the names and dates of birth and death. Benjamin's had no indication he was a Medal of Honor recipient. Again the old is on the left and the new on right. It was unveiled in May of 2010.
Rowland in later life would joke that the only reason he got the medals was because he was "too blind to get out of the way." A reference to the fact that he was completely blind in one eye. The Canadian army and navy refused to allow him to enter their ranks, as did the United States services. So he went to England and signed up with the navy there.
Below this is the very weathered marker for Joseph Noil. You can read US Navy at the bottom but it is most difficult to read the misspelled NOEL above. To the right is the new marker... oops. It comes later.
I have emails back to 2009 on Joseph, others had been looking a lot longer. But then pieces of the puzzle started to unravel. Over the years evidence began more focused, experts were consulted, more clues came in and ultimately it was decided by those who make such decisions, that we had indeed located the marker... even though the name was misspelled. Steps where taken to have a new marker made, officials took various leads and a ceremony was in the works that resulted in history being made on 29 April when the new marker was unveiled.
Here the poster image is used on the front of a 4 page program, telling a little of Noil's history and the events of the day on the 29th.
As there are no known actual photographs of Joseph, the image is an artist's rendering of him and the event leading up to the awarding of the Medal of Honor. Note the image has our hero wearing the medal around his neck.
It must have been quite a long night before the ceremony for Bernadette Ricks, the GGG Granddaughter of Joseph Noil. Her daughter Krisette had arrive at Philadelphia at just 2 a.m. from out of state. Two hrs later the two women were mobile again en-route by cab and train to DC and only arrived at Saint Elizabeth's about 30 minutes before the ceremony started.
Once all the dignitaries and audience were seated and quieted down Master of Ceremonies... Lieutenant Commander John Schafler began the ceremony. He is from the Head Quarters of the US Coast Guard and comes from the very complex named after Vancouver BC born Douglas Munro, the only MOH recipient in that branch of the US Military.
Members of the US Coast Guard then posted their colours, and this was followed by the singing of the Star Spangled Banner and O Canada by Crystal Jones-Johnston from Saint Elizabeths and Julia Eaddy from the Canadian Embassy. These national anthems were quite beautifully performed and received a warm reception from all within earshot.
The colours where then withdrawn and followed by the US Navy's Chaplain Gregory N. Todd's invocation.
Doctor Tanya A Royster, the Director of the DC Department of Behavioral Health then welcome the audience to the cemetery. While a very historic grave yard, it is nevertheless an area not generally open to the public.
The doctor noted that it was hoped that the ceremony could have taken place many months earlier, but several matters, including receiving and mounting the new marker, weather and administrative matters required the ceremony being delayed. She noted that this was perhaps a blessing in disguise. It was not until about 3 weeks before the event that direct descendants of Joseph Noil were actually found.
Family that knew of the lineage but not where he was buried, nor that he had EVEN BEEN AWARDED THE MEDAL OF HONOR.
This is getting long, so I shall return on Sunday with more about the ceremony.
Hope you will join me again then.
By the way, comments are always welcome, though workload sometimes presents problems in acknowledging in a timely fashion...