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Thanksgiving Road Trip

The following is the fourth in a series relating to the Medal of Honor.

Thanksgiving, with millions of Americans on the road, is one of the busiest travel seasons of the year.  If you’re doing the traveling this year, I implore you to try a new travel game: find the Medal of Honor landmarks/monuments across America, and the recipients from each state that they honor.  While the Medal of Honor recipients are a small, distinguished group, they are diverse as well.  There are 19 double recipients, one woman, one president, an 11-year-old, a 62-year-old and at least one representative from each of the 50 states.

Here are a few Medal of Honor landmarks/monuments from different states, and a few of the recipients they honor to get you started:

Oregon –Oregon Medal of Honor Highway consists of 451 miles of Highway 20 recently dedicated to the Oregonian Medal of Honor recipients, who served during eight major wars, spanning over 108 years,  from the Civil War to the Vietnam War, in 10 different countries.  One such veteran is the nation’s oldest living Medal of Honor recipient: Bend, Oregon resident Robert D. Maxwell.  Maxwell served in the Army as a telephone lineman and switchboard operator in World War II.  When an incoming German grenade landed between three of his comrades, he didn’t hesitate. Throwing himself on the grenade, he was severely injured, but saved the lives of the other three.  You can hear Maxwell describe the event that earned him his Medal of Honor and many more harrowing experiences from his time in Italy, France and North Africa here.

Robert Dale Maxwell (screenshot from video). Veterans History Project, American Folklife Center, AFC2001/001/89733.

Texas – South of Houston lays the small town of Angleton, Texas – home to the Brazoria County Courthouse. There, you might discover a life-size bronze sculpture of Army Combat Medic and Medal of Honor recipient Sp5c Clarence E. Sasser, which honors his acts of bravery during the Vietnam War.  On January 10, 1968, Sasser, critically injured, moved from wounded soldier to wounded soldier for hours on end in a fierce firefight in the Mekong Delta, South Vietnam. The Medal of Honor was presented to him by President Nixon on March 7, 1969. Towards the end of his interview, Sasser encourages children to always do the right thing, and discusses the heavy implications that the Medal of Honor has, insisting that he would rather not bring up memories from the past, but feels it is important for him to share his experience, and set a good example for the youth of today.

Clarence E. Sasser (screenshot from video). Veterans History Project, American Folklife Center, AFC2001/001/89777.

Indiana – Along the north bank of the Indiana Central Canal and adjacent to Military Park, you may just spot the blue-green sheen from the 27 curved glass walls that pay tribute to the 3,456 Medal of Honor recipients representing 15 different conflicts. Over 74 Hoosiers have been decorated with the Congressional Medal of Honor since its inception during the Civil War.  Anderson, IN native and World War II veteran Private First Class Melvin Earl Biddle led an offensive near Soy, Belgium in December 1944, when he single-handedly took out several snipers and multiple machine-gun positions, allowing the allies to advance into the town. For his actions in this 20-hour offensive, Biddle was awarded the Medal of Honor on October 12, 1945. When President Truman placed the medal around his neck at the White House, he whispered to Biddle,

People don’t believe me when I tell them that I’d rather have one of these than be President.

Melvin Earl Biddle (screenshot from video). Veterans History Project, American Folklife Center, AFC/2001/01/89628.

No matter where this upcoming holiday takes you, please do take a moment to remember those who sacrificed in order to safeguard our liberties, and protect their comrades.

Be sure to check out “Stories Above and Beyond,” our online portal to Medal of Honor collections, and keep checking this space for additional blog posts relating to the Medal of Honor.