It was from Farnham, in Canada East, way back in July 1843 that Alonzo Pickle was born. A city today, but a mere village in those days, is and was located about 50 Km south east of Montreal, in what is now known as the province of Quebec.
Alonzo would be one of about 50,000 British North Americans fighting for the cause during the War Between the States. He would earn his keep on the very battlefield of Gettysburg on his 20th birthday. Two years later, he'd earn a Medal of Honor in another famous battle, even though it took the authorities another 30 years to make the award. Unlike many, he actually lived to receive it.
His service to country would be through a most historic unit... The First Minnesota Volunteer Infantry. The very regiment that would be the first ever, in the history of the country and the war, to enlist for the Union cause.
Over 60 others from British North America also served with this regiment. Such service qualifies each and every one of them, and many thousands more, to be among those noted in the title to today's blog.
A past blog told how these men and the rest of the regiment fighting at Gettysburg, according to a past President of the United States, also had a right to claim that they were 'Saviors of the Nation." Powerful words!
Over the years there were several models of the MOH. This appears to be the "Gillespie" model not used before 1904, and thus he would be aged 61 or over.
Note in the box of the third model the small MOH 'knot" to be worn on less formal occasions. Look closely at the above image of Alonzo and it may well be what he is wearing above his Medal of Honor.
Almost 125 years have passed since Alonzo Pickle was awarded his medal. And a month ago on 3 August the US government again recognized this Sergeant and his role as an immigrant in the United States so many years ago. A role that helped to keep his adopted country together, and thus his proper place in the nation's, and Canada's heritage and culture.
About 150 guests, officials and other dignitaries gathered to witness this and two other important events. Each, destined in the years to come, to no doubt become part of American and Canadian heritage as well.
And here was the stage for the three events.
Within this Celebration there was a very impressive Citizenship hearing and swearing in of five new citizens of the United States. At the same event, the ceremony room was going to be dedicated to an immigrant who joined the US military and went to war for his adopted country, gave blood on many a battlefield and came home with a Medal of Honor. And of course that fellow was Quebec born Sergeant Alonzo Pickle.
the USCIS has a web site that briefly notes that for several years they have honoured some of the Medal of Honor recipients who were not born in the US... thus we have immigrants being honoured by the very department dedicated in part, to them.
How incredible appropriate!
The site lists 29, but I think there are a few more. There are at last 2 for Canadians, PEI born Sgt Charles McGillivary in Florida and now of course Quebec's Alonzo Pickle in Minneapolis. The site also notes that there were more than 700 foreign born recipients. The number may be as high as about 750.
The site also says that the facilities at each of these locations are dedicated in the name of those listed. While I think there are a few buildings honouring some of these heroes, I believe it is not the facility, but in fact the ceremony room within the facility, were new citizens are sworn in, that are being so designated.
Regardless, we should all salute the USCIS for recognizing what so many others have not. That a significant number of Non-Americans also earned the nation's most highest of awards for bravery. One in five in the entire history of the medal. It was one in 4 during Civil War days!
This dedicated blogger has been following the Minneapolis story since back in mid April. Initial contacts with USCIS Minneapolis offices included the request to consider having some Canadian input into the dedication services. Because of the move to be made and shaking out the new office, the dedication needed more time to arrange, including any thoughts of Canadian participation.
At the same time I also made contact with authorities at the Canadian Consul General Office in that city. Over the weeks and months many contacts were made with both offices and much information from my research was provided to both, not only on Sgt. Pickle, but the entire story of Canadian involvement with the Medal of Honor. No doubt both often cursed yet another email from Bart on the matters at hand. But soon wonderful news came that Canadian participation was most welcome.
Then came 3 August.
About 150 dignitaries, government officials, bureaucrats, department staff, and guests would gather. They would become witness or participant in the grand opening, and the dedication of a room for a hero. Perhaps of most importance, the day would become the first day of a new life as Americans citizens for five very special people.
Leading up to the Naturalization ceremony, Leslie Tritten would make opening remarks and introduce those participating in the events to follow. Ms. Tritten is the Director of the Minneapolis/St Paul Field Offices of the US Customs and Immigration Service.
In her remarks the Director indicated that the 5 permanent residents of the US, having been investigated, interviewed and approved, live in the area covered by the office, and have evidenced good moral character and are supporters of the principles of the Constitution and forms of government of the United States.
Those gathered heard that Justin Reh from Burma, Regan Greer Birr from Canada, Manasi Ramachandran from India, Javier Sanmiguel from Mexico and Alinasir Ahmed Hussein from Somalia were all being recommended to the court for the administration of the Oath of Allegiance as required by law, so that the applicants can be admitted as Citizens of the United States.
Director Tritten further claimed that... "You are the reason we are here today and it's most fitting that you be a major part of this Grand Opening."
Remarks include the Director's statement that "we are a national of immigrants. This importance cannot be understated. We are a better country for our immigrants and it will be an even better country after our five candidates take the Oath of Allegiance."
She then called upon the attending court officials, under the direction of US District Court Judge Donovan Frank to open his court in that very room to conduct the swearing in ceremony.
The 934th Airlift Wing Colour Guard then sharply marched in and presented the colours for the event. The National emblem was then sung by former officer Melinda Howe, who worked with the Supervisory Immigration Service branch of the USCIS.
The court then came to a close and events of the day then turned to the dedicating of the Ceremony Room in the honour of Quebec born Medal of Honor recipient Sgt Alonzo Pickle.
Canadian Consul General Nasim gave thanks for the opportunity to participate in the day's events, an opportunity to publicly acknowledge the deeds of Sgt. Pickle, and congratulated the USCIS on the opening of a new office in Minneapolis. He noted that the Canadian office has operated there for 47 years and stood by to welcome them, to their new neighborhood. He suggested that if the Americans came for neighborly advise, the Canadians would try not to discuss hockey. Hehe.
He congratulated the 5 new citizens, and noted that his office learned of the event through my contacts and had assistance from me with regards to the Pickle history and the more widened history of over well over 100 Canadians, or those with connections to Canada that touch on the story of the Medal of Honor. He even gave the URL of this website in his remarks, which was most appreciated.
The Consul General added that "Alonzo Pickle’s personal history speaks to the incredibly close and numerous bonds between Canadians and Americans and more specifically Canadians and Minnesotans. We have a shared history, familiar culture, and shared values.
Together, we have forged a bilateral relationship that is the envy of the world including:
-- the largest trading relationship in the world. One that is fair and balanced with the US having a slight surplus with Canada;
--a profound commitment to good stewardship of our shared environment; including the iconic Boundary Waters and Great Lakes,
--security cooperation at the border; and our long-standing commitment to protect our North American homeland and address global threats,
- and of course the bonds of family and friends.
We are proud to be here today, honouring the life of one Canadian-American, and offering our congratulations both to the USCIS on your new office opening, and to the new Americans whose naturalization ceremonies we have all been privileged to witness today.
Thank you once again for including us, and welcome to the neighbourhood!
But before moving on, I would like to note that with the Canadian official actually cutting the ribbon of an American office, is this a first for both countries???
If you can see the tear in her eye it was while reading the very oath of allegiance that has now made this professional engineer and accomplished competative athlete a US Citizen.
It was a privilege to chat with her on the phone a few days back, though we both wished time was available for a longer chat. But she did have time to say that the citizenship ceremony was the 2nd most important day in her life. Her wedding being the first.
Regan is from Saskatchewan, where her earlier formal educational years also involved a lot of sports, even at the competitive level. She was an accomplished player at Ringettes and softball and was a fierce competitor at the provincials annually as a curler.
After completing her degree program she felt a move to the US might have greater potential in the engineering field... and I suspect a strong and growing interest competing nationally, and FOR THE US... at international events. One she would not be eligible for without citizenship.
An example of her compassion, recognition of service to country, and a heart of gold, can be found in her actions action when the disease of Lupus struck close to home.
She has taken an active advisory and advocacy role in the world of Lupus and even started her own Lupus Research Foundation, and raised thousands to help reach a cure for those inflicted.
I encourage you to take a few minutes right now to visit her site at... http://www.mizunomoves.com/whats-new.shtml and add your support for the work she and her team are doing.
And speaking of teams I want to thank the offices of the USCIS at Minneapolis, and the offices of Canadian Consul General in the same city for keeping me informed as the above ceremonies came closer to fruition, and working with me to see that Canada was indeed on the platform with our friends south of the border for the important events of 3 August, and to further acknowledge with thanks, the supply of much information from both offices and some great pictures as well.
And finally, I am out of words... till Sunday
I always welcome comments at the site, though time and other site problems sometimes make it difficult to acknowledge same.
cheers, again, till Sunday,