No television cameras. No professional photographers. An employee of American Airlines, Andres Otero, standing by, caught the event, probably with his phone camera.
Here’s the picture, published in the obscure Queens Gazette:
Congressional Medal of Honor Winner Rodolfo Hernandez received a salute from active duty military, as he boarded an American Airlines flight to Washington, D.C., for Medal of Honor Day, March 25. Photo by Andres Otero, American Airlines
[Click through to the Queens Gazette for a larger image.]
The rest of the story?
California-native Corporal Rodolfo P. Hernandez served in the U.S. Army, and saw action in the Korean conflict. He and his unit came under attack near Wontong-ni, Korea, on May 31, 1951. Here’s the citation, from the Congressional Medal of Honor Society:
Cpl. Hernandez, a member of Company G, distinguished himself by conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity above and beyond the call of duty in action against the enemy. His platoon, in defensive positions on Hill 420, came under ruthless attack by a numerically superior and fanatical hostile force, accompanied by heavy artillery, mortar, and machine gun fire which inflicted numerous casualties on the platoon. His comrades were forced to withdraw due to lack of ammunition but Cpl. Hernandez, although wounded in an exchange of grenades, continued to deliver deadly fire into the ranks of the onrushing assailants until a ruptured cartridge rendered his rifle inoperative. Immediately leaving his position, Cpl. Hernandez rushed the enemy armed only with rifle and bayonet. Fearlessly engaging the foe, he killed 6 of the enemy before falling unconscious from grenade, bayonet, and bullet wounds but his heroic action momentarily halted the enemy advance and enabled his unit to counterattack and retake the lost ground. The indomitable fighting spirit, outstanding courage, and tenacious devotion to duty clearly demonstrated by Cpl. Hernandez reflect the highest credit upon himself, the infantry, and the U.S. Army.
Congressional Medal of Honor awardee Cpl. Rodolfo P. Hernandez - Congressional Medal of Honor Society image
Cpl. Hernandez received the Congressional Medal of Honor on April 21, 1962.
No, I had not heard of Medal of Honor Day, either.
Here are some details from MedalofHonorNews.com, so you can get a head start on next year’s observation:
Sunday, March 13, 2011
National Medal of Honor Day is officially observed on March 25th. The Medal of Honor is the highest distinction that can be awarded by the President, in the name of the Congress, to members of the Armed Forces who have distinguished themselves conspicuously by gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of their lives above and beyond the call of duty.
“This holiday should be one of our most revered. Unfortunately all too many Americans are not even aware of its existence.” Home of Heroes
The date of March 25th was chosen because the first Medals of Honor were awarded to members of Andrew’s Raiders on March 25, 1863, for their actions during the “Great Locomotive Chase.”
Col. Robert Howard (USA Ret.) president of the Congressional Medal of Honor Society on National Medal of Honor Day states:
“Hard times ask us to put a greater good before our own interests. It is sometimes physically or emotionally painful. Yet throughout history, you will find common men and women who fought selflessly in a variety of ways for something so much larger than just their own benefit.
Today, we’re fighting terrorism and the spread of tyranny. We’re challenged by market upheaval, joblessness and perhaps hunger. But the human spirit is resilient and can withstand more than sometimes we are able to immediately comprehend.
It’s up to each of us to not lay and wait for better days, but instead look for opportunities to make the lives of those around us better. National Medal of Honor Day is not a celebration. It is a solemn time to reflect on the freedom we enjoy, its price, and how our own bravery can improve the world around us.”
Home of Heroes, a premier resource of Medal of Honor information on the internet suggests:
“National Medal of Honor day is celebrated in some communities, however for the most part the occasion comes and goes with little notice. As a patriotic American there are a few things you can do to commemorate this day:
- Fly your flag with pride and patriotism on this day.
- Remember our heroes. As a gesture of your appreciation, why not take just a few moments in the week prior to National Medal of Honor Day to mail a “Thank You” card to one of our living Medal of Honor recipients. You can find a list of the living as well as information on writing to them among the pages of the Home of Heroes website or contact the Congressional Medal of Honor Society who will forward the letter to the Medal of Honor Recipient.
- Inform your local media. Most newspapers aren’t even aware that this special day exists. Why not tip your local media to the occasion. Before you do, check out the Home of Heroes database for Medal of Honor recipients from your city and state as well as any who might be buried in your city. This information can give your media a “local angle” that can increase the probability that they will consider doing a story to remind Americans of our heroes.
- If there is a Medal of Honor recipient buried in your home town, get a school class, scout troop, or other youth organization to “adopt a grave site”.
Please visit the Home of Heroes website and the Educational Resources section of Medal of Honor News.
Also read our upcoming article: Lesson plans for History and Social Studies teachers on National Medal of Honor Day, March 25th, 2011