Written by Greg Bennett Friday, 02 April 2010 00:00
Greg Bennett of Charles Wagner Post 421 attended the National Medal of Honor Day Program held at the Long Island National Cemtery in Farmingdale, New York on March 25, 2010. The ceremony was hosted by the Long Island National Cemetery Memorial Organization. The program chairman was Moe Fletcher, a Gold Star Parent.
Colors were posted by a Joint U.S. Armed Forces Color Guard. The Pledge of Allegiance was recited, our National Anthem was played and an Invocation was recited by Major Doyle Coffman, Chaplain, U.S. Army.
Honored guest speakers were the New York State Director of Veterans Affairs Jim McDonough, Colonel Stephen V. Smith and CSM Sylvia P. Laughlin of the Fort Hamilton Garrison in Brooklyn, New York. Other honored guests were Mrs. Maureen Murphy, Gold Star Mother of Lt. Michael Murphy, MOH , USN SEAL, and Village of Northport Chief of Police Eric Bruckenthal, Gold Star Parent of Nathan Bruckenthal, USCG. Chief Bruckenthal stated he considers all veterans to be his family.
The program continued with Medal of Honor Citations being read. Hicksville VFW Commander William Walden read the MOH Citation of Hicksville native SP4 George Lang, MOH. Members of Sons of Italy Lodges read the MOH Citations of Michael Valente, MOH, Anthony Casamento, MOH and “Manila John” Basilone, MOH. Legionnaire Pat Youngstrom, of the Nassau County Veterans Service Agency, read the MOH Citations of Vietnam U.S. Army Rangers SSG Rabel Lassio, MOH, SP4 Robert Law, MOH and SFC Gary L. Littrell, MOH. SSG Lassio, MOH, born in Hungary, and SP4 Law, of Fort Worth, Texas, both threw themselves on enemy grenades to save their comrades while sacrificing their lives. SFC Littrel, MOH, of Henderson, Kentucky, distinguished himself in four days of constant combat with South Vietnamese Rangers as an advisor. Retired Chief Master Sgt. Dennis Richardson, USAF, Air Force Cross read the MOH Citations of USAF Vietnam heroes A1C John L. Levitow, MOH, of Glastonbury, CT, and A1C William H. Pitzenbarger, MOH, of Piqua, Ohio. A1C Levitow, MOH, abroad a gunship wounded numerous times from enemy fire smothered a live flare with his body saving the crew and plane. He passed away on November 8, 2000. A1C Pitsenbarger, MOH, a Pararescuemen in a rescue helicopter, gave his life aiding an Army unit that was surrounded by hostile forces. He lifted several wounded to safety, then remained on the ground to aid the wounded, distribute ammo and fight the enemy.
After the U.S. Civil War, many Medals of Honor were rescinded by Congress as hundreds were awarded to entire military units at reenlistment ceremonies. The only woman to receive the Medal of Honor was Doctor Mary Walker, who as a volunteer served as a battlefield physician and an alleged Union spy. She wore a Union officer’s uniform and a straw hat topped with a feather as she treated wounded in combat. When Congress ordered her to return the Medal because she was a volunteer, Doctor Mary Walker refused and wore the Medal the rest of her life.
Nineteen American service members have been recipients of the Medal of Honor on two occasions. Dan Daily, MOH, USMC, from Glen Cove, New York, received the Medal of Honor twice for “ Conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty,” in Peking, China and in Haiti. “Hero of the Republic” James Madison Cutts received the Medal of Honor three times during the U.S. Civil War and he is buried at Arlington National Cemetery.
Many Americans feel that Sgt. John Basilone, MOH, USMC, of Raritan, New Jersey should have been awarded the Medal of Honor twice. SGT Basilone served in the U.S. Army prior to World War II serving as a machine gunner at Fort Jay, NY and in the Philiphines. He was a champion military boxer with a 19-0 record. He left the Army and enlisted in the United States Marine Corps. During World War II as a Marine machine gunner at Bloody Ridge on Guadalcanal he fought off 3,000 elite Japanese troops after his 15-member unit was reduced to three Marines. He was an exceptional Marine and squad leader. He was ordered home assigned to a nationwide Bond Drive for the duration of the war. Sgt. Basilone, MOH, volunteered to return to Pacific combat declaring, “ I’m staying with my boys. “
SGT. “Manila John” Basilone was killed by an enemy motar round at 10:45 am on February 19, 1945 on Iwo Jima after again displaying utmost valor in combat against heavy fortified enemy positions. Sgt. Basilone posthumously received the Navy Cross and Purple Heart for valor on Iwo Jima. He is a national hero and arguably the most famous U.S. Marine of all time.
The National Medal of Honor Day Ceremony concluded with Taps being sounded, followed by a Firing Detail of the 119 New York Volunteer Infantry, a Civil War group. The USAF 106th Air Rescure Recovery Service at Westhampton Air Force Base provided a C-130 missing man formation flyover of the ceremony. Amazing Grace was played by a bagpiper. Medal of Honor flags were then placed on the graves of the 20 Medal of Honor recipients buried at Long Island National Cemetery.
Remember that March 25 is National Medal of Honor Day, a National Holiday enacted by Congress. Keep these heroes in your heart every day. Living Medal of Honor recipients on their honored day asked all Americans to perform acts of kindness. It is a tradition this holiday for the U.S. president and living Medal of Honor recipients to meet at Arlington National Cemetery by the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier to lay a wreath and honor our military heroes who have given their lives.
The American Legion encourages veterans, especially disabled veterans, who own small businesses to contact federal agencies in their locale to see if they are eligible for government contracts. Become a General Services Administration approved contractor.
Charles Wagner Post 421 meets the first and third Monday at the Hicksville VFW, 329 S. Broadway at 8 p.m. All veterans are welcomed to join and new auxiliary members are welcome. Send donations to assist hospitalized military and veterans to American Legion Post 421, P.O. Box 925, Hicksville, NY 11802.