Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Vietnam War Hero and Medal of Honor Recipient Honored with Statue

Michael Joseph Crescenz (January 14, 1949–November 20, 1968) was a United States Army Corporal (Cpl) during the Vietnam War who posthumously received the Medal of Honor for his actions near the Hiep Duc village of Vietnam on November 20, 1968. Michael was honored with a bronze monument on April 24th 2016 at the Philadelphia Vietnam Veterans Memorial where he shares these special grounds with 646 fellow Philadelphians who made the ultimate sacrifice for their country.

Sculptor: Chad Fisher
Photograph:  Bob Castaldi

Medal of Honor Citation:

Cpl. Crescenz distinguished himself by conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action while serving as a rifleman with Company A. In the morning his unit engaged a large, well-entrenched force of the North Vietnamese Army whose initial burst of fire pinned down the lead squad and killed the 2 point men, halting the advance of Company A. Immediately, Cpl. Crescenz left the relative safety of his own position, seized a nearby machine gun and, with complete disregard for his safety, charged 100 meters up a slope toward the enemy's bunkers which he effectively silenced, killing the 2 occupants of each. Undaunted by the withering machine gun fire around him, Cpl. Crescenz courageously moved forward toward a third bunker which he also succeeded in silencing, killing 2 more of the enemy and momentarily clearing the route of advance for his comrades. Suddenly, intense machine gun fire erupted from an unseen, camouflaged bunker. Realizing the danger to his fellow soldiers, Cpl. Crescenz disregarded the barrage of hostile fire directed at him and daringly advanced toward the position. Assaulting with his machine gun, Cpl. Crescenz was within 5 meters of the bunker when he was mortally wounded by the fire from the enemy machine gun. As a direct result of his heroic actions, his company was able to maneuver freely with minimal danger and to complete its mission, defeating the enemy. Cpl. Crescenz's bravery and extraordinary heroism at the cost of his life are in the highest traditions of the military service and reflect great credit on himself, his unit, and the U.S. Army.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Cafferata, Hero of the Korean War and Recipient of the Medal of Honor Dies At 86

Marine Pfc. Hector A. Cafferata Jr., who earned the Medal of Honor at the Chosin Reservoir during the Korean War, died April 12 at the age of 86.

Photo courtesy of MOH Society

Cafferata was a rifleman with Fox Company, 2nd Battalion, 7th Marines, 1st Marine Division, on Nov. 28, 1950. More than 10,000 Chinese troops had surrounded Gen. Douglas MacArthur's U.N. forces at the Chosin Reservoir, including 8,000 from the Marine division. On a frozen, rocky promontory, the 230 or so Marines of Company F had been assigned to protect the Toktong Pass, a narrow escape route through the Nangnim Mountains.

The other members of Cafferata’s fire team became casualties at the pass during the initial phase of “a vicious attack launched by a fanatical enemy of regimental strength against his company's hill position,” according to his award citation.

With temperatures hovering around 30 below zero, the lone warrior rushed from his hooch wearing little more than a light jacket. Armed with grenades and a rifle, he squared off against relentless fire from automatic weapons, rifles, grenades and mortars. When the smoke cleared, Cafferata had killed at least 15 of the enemy, wounded countless more, and forced those who remained to withdraw.

Heavy gunfire and a well-placed grenade announced the arrival of enemy reinforcements later that morning. The grenade landed in the shallow entrenchment in which wounded Marines found cover. The 21-year-old braved the gunfire, grabbed the grenade, and threw it clear of his fellow Marines. Cafferata’s right hand and arm were seriously wounded in the explosion. Despite the intense pain, he continued to fight until struck by a sniper's bullet.

President Barack Obama greets Korean War veteran and Medal of Honor recipient Pfc. Hector Cafferata following his remarks at Yongsan Garrison in Seoul, South Korea, on Nov. 11, 2010. (Photo: Pete Souza/White House)

“Pvt. Cafferata, by his fortitude, great personal valor, and dauntless perseverance in the face of almost certain death, saved the lives of several of his fellow Marines and contributed essentially to the success achieved by his company in maintaining its defensive position against tremendous odds,” according to his citation.

Cafferata was awarded the Medal of Honor by President Harry S. Truman at a White House ceremony on Nov. 24, 1952. He was one of 42 Marine vets to receive the nation's highest military award for valor for actions in the Korean War — 14 of whom were awarded for actions in the Chosin Reservoir campaign. Seven of those awards were posthumous. There are 76 MOH recipients alive today, according to the Congressional Medal of Honor Society.

Cafferata was born on Nov. 4, 1929, in New York City. He played semi-pro football and worked at the Sun Dial Corp. when he enlisted in 1948, according to his obituary. He died in Venice, Florida, just north of Cape Coral, where a junior elementary school was named in his honor. Cafferata is survived by his wife, Doris, and four children.

Friday, March 25, 2016

Medal of Honor Recipient Santiago J. Erevia, Hero of the Vietnam war, Dead at 70.

On this date March 25, 2016, National Medal of Honor Day we remember Specialist Four Santiago J. Erevia, recipient of the Medal of Honor who died on Wednesday March 23, 2016, in San Antonio, Texas.

One of the great heroes of the Vietnam War, Erevia received the Distinguished Service Cross  for his heroism in Vietnam on May 21 1969. On March 18, 2014, President Obama presented the Medal Of Honor to Erevia. It was determined after a review  that Erevia  was a victim of discrimination and denied the Medal of Honor in 1969.

Santiago J. Erevia
Medal  of Honor Citation

Specialist Four Santiago J. Erevia distinguished himself by acts of gallantry and intrepidity above and beyond the call of duty while serving as a radio telephone operator in Company C, 1st Battalion (Airmobile), 501st Infantry, 101st Airborne Division (Airmobile) during search and clear mission near Tam Ky, Republic of Vietnam on May 21, 1969. After breaching an insurgent perimeter, Specialist Four Erevia was designated by his platoon leader to render first aid to several casualties, and the rest of the platoon moved forward. As he was doing so, he came under intense hostile fire from four bunkers to his left front. Although he could have taken cover with the rest of the element, he chose a retaliatory course of action. With heavy enemy fire directed at him, he moved in full view of the hostile gunners as he proceeded to crawl from one wounded man to another, gathering ammunition. Armed with two M-16 rifles and several hand grenades, he charged toward the enemy positions behind the suppressive fire of the two rifles. Under very intense fire, he continued to advance on the insurgents until he was near the first bunker. Disregarding the enemy fire, he pulled the pin from a hand grenade and advanced on the bunker, leveling suppressive fire until he could drop the grenade into the bunker, mortally wounding the insurgent and destroying the fortification. Without hesitation, he employed identical tactics as he proceeded to eliminate the next two enemy positions. With the destruction of the third bunker, Specialist Four Erevia had exhausted his supply of hand grenades. Still under intense fire from the fourth position, he courageously charged forward behind the fire emitted by his M-16 rifles. Arriving at the very edge of the bunker, he silenced the occupant within the fortification at point blank range. Through his heroic actions the lives of the wounded were saved and the members of the Company Command Post were relieved from a very precarious situation. His exemplary performance in the face of overwhelming danger was an inspiration to his entire company and contributed immeasurably to the success of the mission. Specialist Four Erevia’s conspicuous gallantry, extraordinary heroism, and intrepidity at the risk of his own life, above and beyond the call of duty, were in keeping with the highest traditions of military service and reflect great credit upon himself, his unit, and the United States Army.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Medal of Honor Recipient Santiago J. Erevia, Hero of the Vietnam war, Dead at 70.

Below is link to a full profile of Erevia which was published on March 8, 2014, in  Erevia received the Medal of Honor from President Obama on March 18, 2014, in a ceremony at the White House.

View March 8, 2014 Article in Medal of Honor News

Saturday, March 5, 2016

Marine Hero of Peleliu Art Jackson Honored by State of Idaho

World War II Medal of Honor Recipient

By John Sowell

Gov. Butch Otter has proclaimed Wednesday as Art Jackson Day, in honor of the Boise man who single-handedly destroyed a dozen concrete guard posts and killed 50 Japanese soldiers during a fierce World War II battle on the island of Peleliu in the Western Pacific.

A ceremony to honor Jackson will be held at 4:30 p.m. Wednesday on the first floor of the rotunda at the Idaho Capitol. Otter will present Jackson, 91, with a proclamation and there will be performances by the Boise Police Department Honor Guard Pipe & Drums, the department’s Honor Guard Choir and by The Divas of Boise.

President Harry S. Truman pins the Medal of Honor on Art Jackson during an Oct. 5, 1945, ceremony on the lawn outside the White House. Photo provided by Art Jackson.

In September 1944, Peleliu was held by Japanese soldiers entrenched in caves. Fighting for control of it lasted two months. When it was over, 1,800 Americans had been killed and 8,000 more wounded. Nine Marines were awarded the Medal of Honor for their roles in the battle. Jackson was one of them.

“All of local military, and in particular local Marines, consider Art Jackson to be a rock star among our military heroes,” said Rocci Johnson, one of the organizers of the tribute. “If not for him, and those of his mettle, it would be a very different world, and we would all probably not be speaking English.”

Citations issued to Jackson, who retired as a captain, and other Marines are used in entry-level training to create a warrior spirit in new Marines, said Capt. Adam Ayriss, an inspector instructor for Company C, 4th Tank Battalion of the Marine Corps Reserves in Boise.

“Reading the words of extreme heroism displayed by Marines throughout history helps build the motivation, inspiration, and esprit de corps that galvanizes all Marines into one cohesive team,” Ayriss said. “Capt. Arthur Jackson is a hero; a true warrior who is an inspiration to all Marines.”

Then 19, Jackson saved his platoon from almost certain destruction. A book about the battle described him as “a one-man Marine Corps.” His Medal of Honor citation credits him with single-handedly confronting enemy barrages and contributing to “the complete annihilation of the enemy in the southern sector of the island.”

Despite a barrage of gunfire, Jackson charged a large pillbox, as the concrete guard posts were known. He threw white phosphorus grenades that provided cover from the white smoke it produced and he set off munitions charges that destroyed the pillbox and killed the 35 soldiers inside.

Jackson kept advancing and picked off one enemy position after another.

“His gallant initiative and heroic conduct in the face of extreme peril reflect the highest credit upon Pfc. Jackson and the U.S. Naval Service,” according to the Medal of Honor citation.

Additional information on Jackson and his heroism can be found online on a Facebook page dedicated to him.

The article above was originally published in I​daho Statesman on February 22, 2016 and it is published with permission

Arthur Jackson Medal of Honor Citation

For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty while serving with the 3d Battalion, 7th Marines, 1st Marine Division, in action against enemy Japanese forces on the Island of Peleliu in the Palau group, 18 September 1944. Boldly taking the initiative when his platoon's left flank advance was held up by the fire of Japanese troops concealed in strongly fortified positions, Pfc. Jackson unhesitatingly proceeded forward of our lines and, courageously defying the heavy barrages, charged a large pillbox housing approximately 35 enemy soldiers. Pouring his automatic fire into the opening of the fixed installation to trap the occupying troops, he hurled white phosphorus grenades and explosive charges brought up by a fellow marine, demolishing the pillbox and killing all of the enemy. Advancing alone under the continuous fire from other hostile emplacements, he employed similar means to smash 2 smaller positions in the immediate vicinity. Determined to crush the entire pocket of resistance although harassed on all sides by the shattering blasts of Japanese weapons and covered only by small rifle parties, he stormed 1 gun position after another, dealing death and destruction to the savagely fighting enemy in his inexorable drive against the remaining defenses, and succeeded in wiping out a total of 12 pillboxes and 50 Japanese soldiers. Stouthearted and indomitable despite the terrific odds. Pfc. Jackson resolutely maintained control of the platoon's left flank movement throughout his valiant 1-man assault and, by his cool decision and relentless fighting spirit during a critical situation, contributed essentially to the complete annihilation of the enemy in the southern sector of the island. His gallant initiative and heroic conduct in the face of extreme peril reflect the highest credit upon Pfc. Jackson and the U.S. Naval Service.

Citation courtesy of the Medal of Honor Society

Monday, February 29, 2016

Remarks by the President at Medal of Honor Presentation to Senior Chief Edward Byers, Jr., U.S. Navy

The White House
Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release                                                                                             February 29, 2016

East Room

11:18 A.M. EST

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, good morning, everyone.  And welcome to the White House.  The ethos -- the creed -- that guides every Navy SEAL says this: “I do not advertise the nature of my work, nor seek recognition for my actions.”  Which is another way of saying that standing here today, in front of the entire nation, is not Senior Chief Ed Byers’s idea of a good time.  (Laughter.)  Like so many of our special operators, Ed is defined by a deep sense of humility.  He doesn’t seek the spotlight.  In fact, he shuns it.  He’s the consummate quiet professional.  I imagine there are a lot of other places he’d rather be than in front of all these cameras.  Back in Coronado for another Hell Week.  Holding his breath under dark, frigid water.  Spending months being cold, wet and sandy.  I’m sure there are other things he’d rather be doing.

But the Medal of Honor is our nation’s highest military decoration.  And today’s ceremony is truly unique -- a rare opportunity for the American people to get a glimpse of a special breed of warrior that so often serves in the shadows.  We’re a nation of more than 300 million Americans.  Of these, less than one percent wear the uniform of our armed forces.  Of these, just a small fraction serve in our Special Operations forces.  Among those who train to become a SEAL, only a select few emerge and earn the right to wear that golden Trident.

And consider this:  In the entire history of the Navy SEALs, just five have been awarded the Medal of Honor.  Their names have become legend.  Norris.  Kerrey.  Thornton.  Murphy.  Monsoor.  And now, a sixth -- Byers.  Among the members of the Medal of Honor Society who are with us, we are especially honored by the presence of Tommy Norris and Mike Thornton.  (Applause.)

Now, given the nature of Ed’s service, there is a lot that we cannot say today.  Many of the operational details of his mission remain classified.  Many of his teammates cannot be mentioned.  And this is as it should be.  Their success demands secrecy, and that secrecy saves lives.   

There are, however, many distinguished guests that we can acknowledge, including members of Congress, leaders from across our military, including the Navy.  In fact, this may be the largest gathering of special ops in the history of the White House.  Among them, we have, from Special Operations Command, General Joe Votel and Vice Admiral Sean Pybus.  From Joint Special Operations Command, Rear Admiral Tim Szymanski.  And from Naval Special Warfare Command, Rear Admiral Brian Losey, and Force Master Chief Derrick Walters.  For America’s special operators, this is a little bit of a family reunion and it’s wonderful to have them all here.

Most of all, we welcome Ed’s wonderful family -- his wife Madison, who like so many military spouses has kept their family strong back home while Ed has been deployed; their spectacular daughter, Hannah, who is a competitive figure skater and looks the part.  (Laughter.)  Ed likes to jump out of planes with a parachute, and when he’s not skydiving, he’s driving his 1976 Shovelhead Harley.  When he’s not out riding, he’s staying in shape with Hannah, who is apparently his workout partner.  (Laughter.)  It’s good when your trainer is a Navy SEAL.  (Laughter.)

We also welcome mom’s -- Ed’s mom Peggy, who I understand had one question when Ed told her about this ceremony -- “Do you think I can come?”  (Laughter.)  That’s so sweet.  Yes, mom, you’re allowed to come when your son gets the Medal of Honor.  (Laughter.)  Ed’s brothers and sisters are here, as are about 50 cousins from all across the country.  And dozens of friends -- many who served alongside Ed -- some who have travelled from around the world to be here today.  That’s the brotherhood -- the depth of loyalty to service and to mission -- that binds these teams.   

Now, looking back, it seems Ed Byers was destined to serve.  His father served in the Navy during World War II and now rests in Arlington.  As a boy growing up in Grand Rapids, Ohio, Ed would be in the woods, in camouflage, in his words, “playing military” -- and I suspect the other kids did not stand a chance.  (Laughter.)  A Boy Scout who loved adventure, Ed saw a movie about the Navy SEALs and fell in love with the idea of deploying by sea, air and land.

“I believe that man will not merely endure.  He will prevail,” William Faulkner once said, “because he has a soul, a spirit capable of compassion and sacrifice and endurance.”  Even if he had never performed the actions for which he is being recognized here today, Ed Byers would be long remembered for his compassion, his sacrifice and his endurance.  Eleven overseas deployments.  Nine combat tours.  Recipient of the Purple Heart -- twice.  The Bronze Star with valor -- five times.       

About three years ago, our nation called on that spirit once again.  In Afghanistan, an American doctor -- a husband and father of four children who was working to bring health care to the Afghan people -- was driving down a rural road.  Gunmen surrounded his car and took him hostage.  They tied his hands and marched him into the mountains.  The days went by.  In a remote valley, in a small single-room building, surrounded by Taliban, he lost all hope.  “I was certain,” he thought, “I was about to die.”  His captors told him, the Americans are not coming for you.  Well, they were wrong.  Whenever Americans are taken hostage in the world, we move heaven and earth to bring them home safe.  We send some thunder and some lightning -- our special operator forces, folks like Ed Byers.  They’re carefully selected for their character, their integrity and their judgment.  They are highly trained, with skills honed by years of experience.  And they willingly volunteer for missions of extraordinary risk, like this one.

In this case, there was reason to believe that a Taliban commander was on his way to take custody of the American hostage and move him into Pakistan.  So time was of the essence.  From a remote forward operating base, Ed and his joint team geared up, boarded their helos, and launched.  Once on the ground, they moved -- under the cover of darkness, on that cold December night -- through the mountains, down rocky trails, for hours.  They found their target and moved in, quickly and quietly.  Then, when they were less than a hundred feet from the building, a guard came out, and the bullets started flying.

Our SEALs rushed to the doorway, which was covered by a layer of blankets.  Ed started ripping them down, exposing himself to enemy fire.  A teammate, the lead assaulter, pushed in and was hit.  Fully aware of the danger, Ed moved in next.  An enemy guard aimed his rifle right at him.  Ed fired.  Someone moved across the floor -- perhaps the hostage; perhaps another guard lunging for a weapon.  The struggle was hand-to-hand.  Ed straddled him, pinning him down.  Ed adjusted his night vision goggles.  Things came into focus, and he was on top of a guard.

The American hostage later described the scene.  The dark room suddenly filled with men and the sound of exploding gunfire.  Narrow beams of light shot in every direction.  Voices called out his name.  He answered, “I’m right here.” 

Hearing English, Ed leapt across the room and threw himself on the hostage, using his own body to shield him from the bullets.  Another enemy fighter appeared, and with his body, Ed kept shielding the hostage.  With his bare hands, Ed pinned the fighter to the wall and held him until his teammates took action.  It was over almost as soon as it began.  In just minutes, by going after those guards, Ed saved the lives of several teammates -- and that hostage.  You’re safe, the SEALs told the doctor, you are with American forces.  And that hostage came home to be reunited with his wife and his children. 

Now, success came with a price.  That first SEAL through the door -- Ed’s friend, Nic -- was grievously wounded.  Ed is a medic, so on the helo out, he stayed with Nic, helping to perform CPR the entire flight -- 40 minutes long.  Today, we salute Chief Petty Officer Nicolas Checque.  Back in Monroeville, Pennsylvania, they remembered him as the driven kid -- the football player and wrestler who always wanted to be a SEAL.  For his valor on this mission, he was awarded the Navy Cross, and he’s among the 70 members of the Naval Special Warfare community -- 55 of them SEALs -- who have made the ultimate sacrifice since 9/11.  The enduring love of Nic’s family and all those who admired him remind us of the immense sacrifices that our remarkable Gold Star families have made, and our obligation to stand with them always.       

So today, we don’t simply honor a single individual.  We also pay tribute to a community across our entire military -- special operators, aviators, engineers, technicians, analysts, countless enablers, and their devoted families.  In these hard years since 9/11, our nation has called on this community like never before.  Small in number, they have borne an extraordinarily heavy load.  But they continue to volunteer, mission after mission, year after year.  Few Americans ever see it.  I am truly privileged and humbled that, as Commander-in-Chief, I do get to see it. 

I’ve given the order sending you into harm’s way.  I see the difference you make every day -- the partners you train, the relationships you forge, the other hostages that you’ve brought home, the terrorists that you take out.  I’ve waited, like many of you, in those minutes that seem like hours when the margin between success and failure is razor thin, for word that the team is out safe.  I’ve grieved with you and I’ve stood with you at Dover to welcome our fallen heroes on their final journey home.   

Our Special Operations forces are a strategic national asset.  They teach us that humans are more important than hardware.  Today is a reminder that our nation has to keep investing in this irreplaceable asset, which means deploying our Special Operators wisely, preserving force and family, making sure these incredible Americans stay strong in body, in mind and in spirit.      

So I’ll end where I started -- with the SEAL ethos:  “In times of war or uncertainty, there is a special breed of warrior ready to answer our nation's call.  A common man with uncommon desire to succeed.  Forged by adversity, he stands alongside America's finest Special Operations forces to serve his country, the American people, and protect their way of life.”  Senior Chief Edward Byers, Jr. is such a man.  Chief Petty Officer Nicolas Checque was that man.  Every Navy SEAL and Special Operator who serves with honor in his chosen profession is that man.

The American people may not always see them.  We may not always hear of their success.  But they are there in the thick of the fight, in the dark of night, achieving their mission.  We thank God they’re there.  We sleep more peacefully in our beds tonight because patriots like these stand ready to answer our nation’s call and protect our way of life -- now and forever. 

And as we prepare for the reading of the citation, I ask you to join me in expressing America’s profound gratitude to Navy SEAL Ed Byers and all our quiet professionals.  (Applause.)

     MILITARY AIDE:  The President of the United States, in the name of the Congress, takes pleasure in presenting the Medal of Honor to Chief Special Warfare Operator Edward C. Byers, Jr., United States Navy:   

For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty as a Hostage Rescue Force Team Member in Afghanistan in support of Operation ENDURING FREEDOM on 8-9 December 2012. As the rescue force approached the target building, an enemy sentry detected them and darted inside to alert his fellow captors. The sentry quickly reemerged, and the lead assaulter attempted to neutralize him. Chief Byers, with his team, sprinted to the door of the target building. As the primary breacher, Chief Byers stood in the doorway fully exposed to the enemy fire while ripping down six layers of heavy blankets fastened to the inside ceiling and walls to clear a path for the rescue force.  The first assaulter pushed his way through the blankets, and was mortally wounded by enemy small arms fire from within. 

Chief Byers, completely aware of the imminent threat, fearlessly rushed into the room and engaged an enemy guard aiming an AK-47 at him.  He then tackled another adult male who had darted towards the corner of the room.  During the ensuing hand-to-hand struggle, Chief Byers confirmed the man was not the hostage and engaged him.  As the other rescue team members called out to the hostage, Chief Byers heard a voice respond in English and raced toward it.  He jumped atop the American hostage and shielded him from the high volume of fire within the small room.  While covering the hostage with his body, Chief Byers immobilized another guard with his bare hands, and restrained the guard until a teammate could eliminate him.

His bold and decisive actions under fire saved the lives of the hostage and several of his teammates.  By his undaunted courage, intrepid fighting spirit, and unwavering devotion to duty in the face of near-certain death, Chief Petty Officer Byers reflected great credit upon himself and upheld the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service.

(The Medal of Honor is presented.)  (Applause.)

(A prayer is offered.) 

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, that concludes the ceremony, but we actually throw a pretty good party here.  (Laughter.)  And I've been told the hors d’oeuvres are pretty good.  So we welcome all of you to join us in the reception.  Ed and I are going to have to take a few more pictures before he joins you.  But we are so grateful to him, we're grateful to his wonderful family.  Mom, I'm glad that you could come.  (Laughter.)  We are grateful for our other Medal of Honor recipients who are here.  And to all the Special Forces who are here, we are extraordinarily grateful to you.  This is obviously an award for individual heroism, but I'm glad we were able to make the broader point -- we are so grateful for your service to our nation.

Thank you very much, everybody.  God bless.  God bless America.  (Applause.) 

END                                                                                  Watch Replay of Presentation Ceremony
11:39 A.M. EST

Saturday, February 27, 2016

REMINDER: White House MOH Presentation Ceremony: this Monday, February, 29th

White House MOH Presentation Ceremony will be this Monday, February 29th. (Time to be determined). President Barack Obama will present the Medal of Honor to Senior Chief Special Warfare Operator Edward Byers, U.S. Navy.

Please use link below on Monday morning for final Schedule and to view Ceremony LIVE from the White House.