June 25: Virginians fly flags to commemorate statehood, and Col. Van T. Barfoot

June 24, 2015

June 25 is Virginia Statehood Day.  The U.S. Flag Code urges Americans to fly the U.S. flag on the statehood date of their states.

Virginia is counted as the 10th state, by virtue of the Virginia ratifying convention’s having voted to ratify the U.S. Constitution on June 25, 1788 — over the strong objections of Gov. Patrick Henry, and with the skilled legislative work of James Madison.

The Constitution became effective upon the ninth state’s ratification, but Virginia, being the largest state in the union at the time, was considered a make-or-break vote.

June 25 is the last U.S. flag flying date in June 2015.

So, Virginians: Fly your U.S. flags on June 25, as Col. Van T. Barfoot did every day until his death.

From the Washington Post: Retired Col. Van T. Barfoot, a Medal of Honor recipient, and his daughter Margaret Nicholls lower the flag outside Barfoot's home in the Sussex Square subdivision in Henrico County, Va., in 2009. Barfoot died March 2 [2012] at a hospital in Richmond. He was 92. (Photo by Eva Russo/AP)

From the Washington Post: “Retired Col. Van T. Barfoot, a Medal of Honor recipient, and his daughter Margaret Nicholls lower the flag outside Barfoot’s home in the Sussex Square subdivision in Henrico County, Va., in 2009. Barfoot died March 2 [2012] at a hospital in Richmond. He was 92. (Photo by Eva Russo/AP)”

You may remember the story of Col. Barfoot. As a veteran of World War II, Korea and Vietnam, he flew Old Glory every day. In 2009 his Henrico County, Virginia homeowners association complained, ordered him to stop flying the U.S. flag and take down his flag pole, erected in violation of HOA “curb appeal” rules.

Col. Barfoot refused.  Eventually the public outcry, including pressure from President Barack Obama, got the HOA to back down.  Obama said Barfoot was a good example, and had earned the right to fly Old Glory.

Barfoot had a particularly compelling case to fly the flag. Barfoot was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor for his service in Italy, against German troops, in 1944.  The Washington Post explained: 

Early in the war, he participated in the Army’s invasion of Italy. As his unit moved inland, the soldiers took up defensive positions near Carano.

On May 23, 1944, Col. Barfoot was ordered to lead an assault on German positions. He went out alone and crawled to within feet of a German bunker.

According to his Medal of Honor citation, he tossed a grenade inside, killing two Germans and wounding three others. He then moved to another bunker nearby and killed two more German soldiers with his submachine gun while taking three others prisoner. A third machine gun crew, watching Col. Barfoot’s methodical assault, surrendered to him. In all, 17 Germans gave themselves up to Col. Barfoot.

In retaliation, the Germans organized a counterattack on Col. Barfoot’s position, sending three tanks toward him.

Col. Barfoot grabbed a bazooka grenade launcher and stood 75 yards in front of the leading tank. His first shot stopped it in its tracks. He then killed three of the German tank crew members who had attempted to escape.

The other two tanks, witnessing the destruction, abruptly changed directions, moving away from Col. Barfoot. Returning to his platoon, he helped carry two wounded U.S. soldiers almost a mile to safety.

Commending his “Herculean efforts,” Col. Barfoot’s citation praised his “magnificent valor and aggressive determination in the face of pointblank fire.”

Col. Barfoot served in the Korean War and later in Vietnam as a helicopter pilot. His other military decorations included the Silver Star; two awards of the Legion of Merit; the Bronze Star; three awards of the Purple Heart; and 11 awards of the Air Medal.

So, Virginians, would it inconvenience you much to fly your U.S. flags today — in honor of Col. Van T. Barfoot, as well as in honor of your state’s entry into the Union?

What do we do to deserve the loyalty and service of such men?


Boy Scouts greet Col. Theodore Roosevelt, St. Paul, Minnesota, 1932

April 13, 2014

Interesting photograph.

1932 photograph of U.S. Army Col. Theodore Roosevelt III, being greeted in St. Paul, Minnesota by a group of Boy Scouts.  Minnesota Historical Society collection.

1932 photograph of U.S. Army Col. Theodore Roosevelt III, being greeted in St. Paul, Minnesota by a group of Boy Scouts. Minnesota Historical Society collection.

Found it at the site of the Minnesota Historical Society.

Col. Roosevelt, the son of President Theodore Roosevelt, is nearly center, in civilian clothes.  He would go on to command troops at the Battle of Normandy on D-Day, winning the Medal of Honor, awarded posthumously.  His father would later be awarded the Medal of Honor.  Is this the only father-son MoH duo?

MHS records identify Col. Roosevelt and 13 other people in the photo, mostly the Scouts; alphabetically, they are:  Baker, Curtis; Baker, Robert (brothers?); Haas, Frank; Hagman, R. J.; Jungwirth, Robert A.; Kehne, Clyde; Menz, C. J.; Nyman, David; Polanick, Alexander; Robertson, Donald; Roosevelt, Theodore [III]; Sommers, Charles; Torgerson, Gordon; White, Charles.

It would be interesting to know what the event was in 1932 that brought Roosevelt to St. Paul.  It would be interesting to know what happened to those Scouts.

Update: Mr. Higginbotham found an account of Roosevelt’s trip in the April 1932 issue of Boys’ Life (see comments).  Roosevelt was on his way to the Philippines, where he served as Governor-General, a post held earlier by William Howard Taft, Leonard Wood, and Henry L. Stimson, among others.  Roosevelt was a member of the National Board of Boy Scouts of America; Scouts saw him off from New York, and greeted him at stops all the way to Seattle, where he boarded ship for the Philippines.

Account of Col. Theodore Roosevelt III's trip from New York to Seattle, in 1932 -- with Scouts meeting him at almost every stop.  Boys' Life, April 1932, page 58.

Account of Col. Theodore Roosevelt III’s trip from New York to Seattle, in 1932 — with Scouts meeting him at almost every stop. Boys’ Life, April 1932, page 58.


Medal of Honor to former Sgt. Dakota Meyer

July 6, 2012

WhiteHouse.org:

President Obama awards Sergeant Dakota L. Meyer, United States Marine Corps, the Medal of Honor for conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty, while serving with Marine Embedded Training Team 2-8, Regional Corps Advisory Command 3-7, in Kunar Province, Afghanistan, on 8 September 2009. [Ceremony:] September 15, 2011.

Video from the White House includes the prayers offered before and after the ceremony (excluded from the commercial television video).

The citation for Meyer’s Medal of Honor described his gallantry in detail:

The President of the United States in the name of The Congress takes pleasure in presenting the MEDAL OF HONOR to

CORPORAL DAKOTA L. MEYER
UNITED STATES MARINE CORPS

For service as set forth in the following

For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty while serving with Marine Embedded Training Team 2-8, Regional Corps Advisory Command 3-7, in Kunar Province, Afghanistan, on 8 September 2009. Corporal Meyer maintained security at a patrol rally point while other members of his team moved on foot with two platoons of Afghan National Army and Border Police into the village of Ganjgal for a pre-dawn meeting with village elders. Moving into the village, the patrol was ambushed by more than 50 enemy fighters firing rocket propelled grenades, mortars, and machine guns from houses and fortified positions on the slopes above. Hearing over the radio that four U.S. team members were cut off, Corporal Meyer seized the initiative. With a fellow Marine driving, Corporal Meyer took the exposed gunner’s position in a gun-truck as they drove down the steeply terraced terrain in a daring attempt to disrupt the enemy attack and locate the trapped U.S. team. Disregarding intense enemy fire now concentrated on their lone vehicle, Corporal Meyer killed a number of enemy fighters with the mounted machine guns and his rifle, some at near point blank range, as he and his driver made three solo trips into the ambush area. During the first two trips, he and his driver evacuated two dozen Afghan soldiers, many of whom were wounded. When one machine gun became inoperable, he directed a return to the rally point to switch to another gun-truck for a third trip into the ambush area where his accurate fire directly supported the remaining U.S. personnel and Afghan soldiers fighting their way out of the ambush. Despite a shrapnel wound to his arm, Corporal Meyer made two more trips into the ambush area in a third gun-truck accompanied by four other Afghan vehicles to recover more wounded Afghan soldiers and search for the missing U.S. team members. Still under heavy enemy fire, he dismounted the vehicle on the fifth trip and moved on foot to locate and recover the bodies of his team members. Corporal Meyer’s daring initiative and bold fighting spirit throughout the 6-hour battle significantly disrupted the enemy’s attack and inspired the members of the combined force to fight on. His unwavering courage and steadfast devotion to his U.S. and Afghan comrades in the face of almost certain death reflected great credit upon himself and upheld the highest traditions of the Marine Corps and the United States Naval Service.


Medal of Honor for Staff Sergeant Salvatore Giunta

January 12, 2011

President Obama awarded Staff Sergeant Salvatore Giunta, U.S. Army, the Medal of Honor for conspicuous gallantry for his courageous actions against an armed enemy in the Korengal Valley of Afghanistan in October 2007. November 16, 2010.  The ceremony inspires.  Notice at the end of the ceremony as the president turned to past Medal of Honor winners invited in for the moment.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Medal of Honor for Staff Sergeant Salvatore Giunta, posted with vodpod

National Guard history: First African American Medal of Honor

March 18, 2009

From the National Guard Image Gallery: The 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry Regiment was recruited in the spring of 1863 by Governor John Andrew, who had secured the reluctant permission of the War Department to create a regiment of African-American soldiers. Like all Massachusetts Civil War soldiers, the 54ths men were enlisted in the Massachusetts Volunteer Militia. These Guardsmen would serve as a test case for many skeptical whites who believed that blacks could not be good soldiers. The battle that proved they could was fought on Morris Island, at the mouth of Charleston Harbor. Following three days of skirmishes and forced marches with little rest, and 24 hours with no food, the regimental commander, Colonel Robert Gould Shaw, requested the perilous honor of leading the attack of Fort Wagner, a sand and palmetto log bastion. As night fell, 600 men of the 54th advanced with bayonets fixed. Despite withering cannon and rifle fire, the men sustained their charge until they reached the top of the rampart. There, Colonel Shaw was mortally wounded. There, also, Sergeant William Carney, who had earlier taken up the National Colors when the color sergeant had been shot, planted the flag and fought off numerous attempts by the Confederates to capture it. Without support, and faced with superior numbers and firepower, the 54th was forced to pull back. Despite two severe wounds, Sergeant Carney carried the colors to the rear. When praised for his bravery, he modestly replied, I only did my duty; the old flag never touched the ground. Carney was awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions, the first African-American to receive the award. The 54th Massachusetts suffered 270 casualties in the failed assault, but the greater message was not lost: some 180,000 African-American soldiers followed in the footsteps of these gallant Guardsmen, and proved that African-American soldiers could, indeed, fight heroically if given the opportunity.

From the National Guard Image Gallery: Fort Wagner, South Carolina, July 18, 1863; "The Old Flag Never Touched the Ground": The 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry Regiment was recruited in the spring of 1863 by Governor John Andrew, who had secured the reluctant permission of the War Department to create a regiment of African-American soldiers. Like all Massachusetts Civil War soldiers, the 54th's men were enlisted in the Massachusetts Volunteer Militia. These Guardsmen would serve as a test case for many skeptical whites who believed that blacks could not be good soldiers. The battle that proved they could was fought on Morris Island, at the mouth of Charleston Harbor. Following three days of skirmishes and forced marches with little rest, and 24 hours with no food, the regimental commander, Colonel Robert Gould Shaw, requested the perilous honor of leading the attack of Fort Wagner, a sand and palmetto log bastion. As night fell, 600 men of the 54th advanced with bayonets fixed. Despite withering cannon and rifle fire, the men sustained their charge until they reached the top of the rampart. There, Colonel Shaw was mortally wounded. There, also, Sergeant William Carney, who had earlier taken up the National Colors when the color sergeant had been shot, planted the flag and fought off numerous attempts by the Confederates to capture it. Without support, and faced with superior numbers and firepower, the 54th was forced to pull back. Despite two severe wounds, Sergeant Carney carried the colors to the rear. When praised for his bravery, he modestly replied, "I only did my duty; the old flag never touched the ground." Carney was awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions, the first African-American to receive the award. The 54th Massachusetts suffered 270 casualties in the failed assault, but the greater message was not lost: some 180,000 African-American soldiers followed in the footsteps of these gallant Guardsmen, and proved that African-American soldiers could, indeed, fight heroically if given the opportunity.

This is one of a series of artworks describing the history of the National Guard.  A sizable gallery of art covers the first muster of a militia in Salem, Massachusetts, in 1637, through rescue and recovery efforts after Hurricane Katrina in 2005.  Along the way are highlights such as Lexington and Concord, Teddy Roosevelt’s New Mexico Rough Riders in Cuba, including Fort Wagner and the return of General Lafayette.  With some caution on accuracy, these are good for classroom use (the Rough Riders picture shows a man on horseback, but I understand the Rough Riders’ horses had not yet arrived when they stormed up San Juan Hill; it took more than 30 years for Carney to get his medal, etc.).



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