I was in Los Angeles at the time and had just had the thrill of yet again visiting the inspiring Medal of Honor Memorial at Riverside. Here are inscribed about 3,500 names of Medal of Honor men... and one woman. Each had been awarded a medal by the US president for their heroism. Of about 39 panels with these names inscribed, about 31, if memory serves correct, had a name on it of a Canadian or service member with connections to Canada.
With me that day were about a dozen fellow Canadians, mostly descendants, who traveled also to LA to participate at the unveiling of a new marker for their Ontario born relative Benjamin Franklin Young, a Civil War recipient. It was with incredible honour that I took my fellow Canadians over to the wall with Benjamin's name inscribed and most ran their fingers along its edge... with not a few tears in their eyes and chests swollen with pride.
The next day, at the unveiling ceremony, the general approached me after the unveiling to talk about my remarks, complimented me and then asked if there was anything he could do to help me with my work.
I immediately said yes!
When I said that I suspected he had thousands under his command, he agreed. But when I asked how many of them were born in Canada, he could not answer. When I suggested it could well be several dozen, if not even more than 100, he agreed.
Then the kicker came. I said that when ever he talks about the Medal of Honor, whenever his President, the Secretary of War, the secretaries of the army and navy and air force and the press and a zillion others talk about the medal, they are usually bragging about these brave Americans. And so they should.
But then I said that every single time he refers to the medal and AMERICANS ONLY he has just insulted those under his command that come from many other parts of the world, including Canada. He lookout puzzled for a moment. I then quickly added that while surely no disrespect was meant, but at the same time, failing to note that over 700 Medals of Honor (that's one in 5 in the medal's history) were awarded to those from OUTSIDE the US, he and the rest were still insulting these foreign born service men and women.
I asked that from now on he try to convey this thought whenever the subject comes up.
He thanked me and said he would.
Now lets jump forward a few years to the fall of 2013. I was again in the US to attend the Medal of Honor annual convention at Gettysburg and do some research at Washington DC.
I brought you daily blogs of that trip on this site and all are still available by using the search engine link above.
One of my first events on that trip was attending an unveiling of a special marker memorial with names inscribed of all the living recipients at that time. Sadly several had passed away after the markers were made, but their bricks were still included. I donated the brick for Toronto born Peter Lemon, a recipient for bravery in Vietnam. That marker was the only one of about 80 donated by a Canadian.
Another of the events was a brief meet and greet of about 45 medaled men and the gathering of autographs and pictures and a most brief comment or two between the hero and the guests.
Another event was a public forum where three of the recipients were interviewed live on a stage by a national news anchor, and then a brief Q and A from the public.
I again took to the podium with a comment that I thought would get me booed out of the gathering of several hundred guests. It actually got a very respectful applause. I again raised the issue noted above and many times over the past 400 or more stories here.
I mentioned noted that I had traveled some 3,000 miles to attend the convention events and conduct other research. I also said that I was somewhat set back by the anchor's repeated comments about the BRAVE AMERICANS and added that they were not the only ones. I informed those on stage and off that one in four medals in CW days went to a non-American... and one in five in the overall history of the medal. I then asked that the moderator might better reflect on the bravery of ALL recipients. Including the more than 700 above mentioned.
He took the note quite graciously and promised at the podium that he would do so. As the three MOH recipients on stage had already met me prior to this event they smiled down at me at the microphone and seemed to agree with my comments.
Jumping ahead yet again to just a few months ago, back at Washington DC. The ceremony to unveil a new marker for Nova Scotia born Joseph Noil was well covered in this space over several days. I and others sought out the representation of many agencies at the service. Most attended and many participated.
A request was made of many of the agencies that they acknowledge not only sailor and Medal of Honor recipient Noil's citizenship, but also the incredible number of foreign born recipients going back as far as Civil War days. Many did, including the Medal of Honor Society's own foundation.
Now jumping forward to the current news of days and weeks past.
In a month the Medal of Honor Society's annual convention will be held for several days at the Twin cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul. Several websites talk about the events and links also direct you to the wonderful MOH Museum at Charleston on-board the USS Yorktown.
But these sites continue to give little or no mention to the non-American born recipients. One site tells us that the 77 remaining heroes stand from 5 ft. 2" and is aged between 26 and 94. Could this be more important than their heritage?
One says that the above mentioned museum is the best visited tourism attraction of the area, and talks about the fame of men like Audie Murphy, Alvin York and Jimmy Doolittle. All indeed famous. And all American!
Perhaps if this museum, other sites and the press across North America gave a little more attention to the forgotten heroes like James Allen and his ruse to capture so many enemy, and of his building President Lincoln's funeral car, or Thomas McMahon who was not only a medaled man but an Ambassador to Uruguay and had a stamp issued in his honor, then maybe they would be a little more better known.
Or what about Thomas Higgins who was so brave the enemy were the ones nominating him for a Medal of Honor, of Douglas Munro who saved about 500 marines and is revered to this very day by the US Coast Guard and the US Marine Corps. His EIGHTH ship named in his honour is being built as you read this blog.
Three of these four were Canadian, while the 4th had connections to Canada... as did the first man ever, by date of deed... and he was born in a place called Ireland, where well over 100 more recipients came from.
In preserving the story of the Medal of Honor for generations to come, these web sites, these organizations and more need to better reflect ALL recipients instead of the chosen ones.
All are heroes and deserve the same accolades!