On 29 April of his year, the efforts of many individuals and organizations culminated in the performance of an impressive unveiling ceremony in Washington DC where Joseph rests. The new marker corrects the errors above noted.
A few days back I brought you the first of 2 blogs about the event. I left off with the introduction of Doctor Tanya A Royster, Director of Behavioral Health in DC. The cemetery is at the Saint Elizabeth's hospital property, and as such, is one of her responsibilities.
Both I and St Elizabeth's made contact to request that he bring the best wishes of the foundation and of course its parent, the Congressional Medal of Honor Society. This most exclusive club is one where membership is limited to only actual Medal of Honor recipients.
Mr. Caldwell gave a little history of the medal and noted that while over 43 MILLION have served on active duty in the US military, only 3,495 had received the MOH. (That folks, means that for about every 12,300 serving, only one got the medal.)
Mentioning the criteria required for the earning of such an award, Mr. Caldwell noted that... "The deed performed must have been one of personal bravery or self-sacrifice so conspicuous as to clearly distinguish the individual above his comrades and must have involved risk of life. And, that's exactly what Joseph Noil did when he saved the life of one of his fellow sailors."
Caldwell added that 748 Medals of Honor where awarded to navy men.
He further carried the message so often noted in this space that there were at least 760 medals going to men that were not born in the United States. That's one in five folks. (Actually slightly less than five.) And the numbers are 1 in 4 during Civil War days.
(My research shows that in the 760 about one in less than 8 came to a Canadian or recipient with connections to Canada.)
Mr. Caldwell further stated that there are only 76 recipients still alive today and that each works... "to perpetuate the legacy of the Medal and to educate and inspire citizens across America to live by the values embodied in the Medal... courage and sacrifice, commitment and integrity, citizenship and patriotism. They are part of Joseph's family of whom he would be proud as they strive to build a better nation, one citizen at a time.
Caldwell ended with.... Joseph Benjamin Noil, we thank you for your service, for your courage, for your example. And, we salute you."
At the bottom of the above picture are several members of the Greater Washington DC 9th and 10th (Horse) Cavalry Association. These re-enactors, like hundreds of thousands of others across the US gather on regular basis to practice and give re-enactments of various battles and perform other military ceremonial duties. They take their work very seriously and often their equipment and uniforms are historically correct originals. (Lesser numbers do the same in Canada and one of these groups helped me with a ceremony for Buckley years ago, and mentioned above.)
The sergeant shown is probably H Crawford who played a most emotional TAPS during the service. A very close look at the man beside him is needed. I believe this is the man who may not be a man at all..but a woman who plays a woman disguised and who came forth to serve, like hundreds of others, during CW days. (Some even from Canada, and noted in past blogs.)
This officer, pictured above, thanked the selfless folks who made the event a reality and noted that risking one's life to save another on the verge of being lost is the most noble, heroic act a person can do... and that heroes deserve proper recognition."
Being stationed at the CG HQ ... "a few hundreds yards that way..." Captain Sargent told of how the HQ building became dedicated to Douglas Munro from British Columbia. He then read from the general order describing fellow Canadian Joseph Noil's deeds and even provided some additional insight into that day back so many tears ago at Norfolk when Noil rescued his teammate.
"He was down in the ship when the man overboard call was sounded. Seaman Noil ran up on deck (where other shipmates were presumably,) he found a rope, and jumped off the side of the ship. I research how high the ship's railing sat above the water and found it to be 16-18 ft, depending on the ship's loading condition. That's a long way down into almost frozen water, in howling wind and sleet. But Seaman Noil... at 5 ft 6 inches tall, jumped in when no one else did. Finding the shipmate under the curved bow of the ship, he held the nearly unconscious man above the water till rescued. This is self sacrifice... that is exemplary sacrifice... and as such...must be memorialized.
The officer continued with... To paraphrase President Lincoln, future generations may not remember what we say here, but they MUST remember what Seaman Noil did so bravery, there, in icy Norfolk Harbor, 144 years ago.
May his selflessness, for the sake of his fellow man, inspire us all."
Several months ago I contacted the embassy to advise that the service would be taking place though dates where yet to be announced. I asked that the Ambassador participate in the ceremony. I later learned that duties prevented attendance that day but that his top military officer on site would be sent. That is when I was most pleased to learn that this was Rear Admiral Truelove.
As I did for the Bourke ceremony at Victoria years ago, I asked the Canadian Embassy to fly a flag in honour of Joseph Noil and have it presented at the ceremony. They most graciously agreed and did so.
Rear Admiral Truelove was born at Liverpool Nova Scotia. Many feel that while evidence is yet to be located, they still feel that Joseph also came from Liverpool.
The Admiral noted how fitting it was that he had the opportunity to eulogize Noil, certainly a Nova Scotian, and a navy man as well, and to ... ensure that his act of bravery is rightly recognized."
He thanked the work we in the Medal of Honor Historical Society of the United States have done as... "we begin a new chapter wherein future generations will be able to bear witness to Noil's bravery and our common recognition of it."
In Canada, we pride ourselves in remembering our fallen. Captain of the Hold Joseph Benjamin Noil was indeed a Canadian, and we see him as our hero too.
Rear Admiral Truelove also gave notice to Douglas Munro from Vancouver. He noted how interesting it is that on the west side of the DC campus is where the Munro US CG HQ building stands, and Munro was from the West of Canada. And from the East of Canada comes Noil who rests now on the east side of the same campus. And both heroes are Medal of Honor recipients.
Most in attendance that day, would not know it till told by the Admiral that the Canadian motto of course is... A Mare Usque ad Mare... from sea to sea.
He ended his brief remarks with... Today we have fellow countryman serving side by side around the world. I want to pause on this point and, to those in uniform, thank you and your families for not only your service but your unwavering support of Canada. I ask that we all share a thought to those serving our nations on the front lines.
It has been my pleasure and honour to stand before you as we recognize the name and actions of one on my hometown's own sons. May his memory live on and may he rest in peace.
Later in the ceremony, as shown in the picture above, the rear Admiral presented the flag flown over the Canadian Embassy to Mrs. Bernadette Ricks a direct descendant of Joseph Noil, She was also given a letter acknowledging that the flag was so flown.
Admiral Braun spoke briefly about the many many many decades of naval service in the US, around the clock and around the world. She also stated that with these brave Americans were others.
"We have been blessed by those who were not Americans, and nevertheless, served out country and the cause of freedom. We are here today to properly recognize the life and service of just such an individual. A man, not born on American soil, but who died in service to our country, and whose final resting place is here on American soil.
The Admiral spoke of service to fellow shipmates and how each man or woman always had the back of his or her fellow mate. Not just today and tomorrow... but always. She said that ... by honouring Joseph Benjamin Noil, and rededicating his headstone, we are not only correcting a wrong..we are highlighting and reinforcing the eternal bond which exists between shipmates...past, present, and those yet to come.
While noting that 134 years later the navy still had Noil's back.... the name and deeds of our shipmate... are never forgotten... here in America..or in his native Canada.
Bernadette shared family stories of service to the veterans, death in the family from serving family members, of having such a large family of descendants to carry on the name of Joseph and the incredible honor we have all done for her and her family. Many of us in return tell her the honour is not ours to keep but hers to share with the family of today.
Bernadette has shared also her belief that there is a thread that runs through her family, and if the family follows that thread they will learn where it is that they can go.
Good food for thought for those in the world of genealogy.
There is still more to this story that I want to add... but this blog is already far too long. I will end the Noil ceremony next weekend...