Medal of Honor Day An Important Moment To Reflect

Medal of Honor Day An Important Moment To Reflect

Editor, The Cheshire Herald:


March 25 is National Medal of Honor Day. This annual holiday, designated by Congress, is dedicated to Medal of Honor recipients. But in Cheshire, every day is Medal of Honor Day.

The Medal of Honor is America’s highest military award for combat valor. It is given for “conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity above and beyond the call of duty” in combat with an enemy of the United States. It was created by Congress in 1861 and signed into law by President Lincoln. Since then, about 40 million men and women have served in our military, but only 3,500 Medals have been awarded. It is given in the name of Congress by the President as Commander in Chief and carries a citation signed by him which describes the battle action behind the award. The back of the Medal is inscribed with the name of the recipient. When you see the Medal  hanging around the neck of someone on a sky-blue ribbon with white stars on it, you know you are in the presence of a genuine military hero.

Cheshire is unique among small towns of America (population fewer than 30,000) because we have had two residents who received the Medal of Honor. Therefore, we’ve made a special effort to recognize them and the Medal publicly. They are Eri Davidson Woodbury, an Army sergeant who received the Medal for his battle action during the Civil War, and Harvey Curtis Barnum, a Marine officer who received his Medal for battle action during the Vietnam War. No other small town can claim two such residents and even the major cities of America mostly cannot. Since the Medal of Honor was created, 3,500 men and one woman have been awarded it. (Interestingly, Norwalk and Waterbury also have two residents who received the Medal, but they are much larger than Cheshire and cannot claim to be a small town.)

To honor those brave men, Cheshire has done several things. We have a Medal of Honor Plaza in Bartlem Park near the center of town and we have their names on bronze plaques in front of Town Hall at the Veterans Memorial Plaza. We have a Medal of Honor on display in the town library. (The Medal is on permanent loan from the Defense Department.) We also have Sergeant Woodbury’s actual Medal of Honor on display in the Cheshire Historical Society headquarters and his grave is marked for public viewing in St. Peter’s Church cemetery. (Woodbury retired as headmaster of Cheshire Academy in1903 and died in 1928.) And just a few years ago, the Connecticut Department of Transportation named state highway Route 10 through the center of Cheshire the “Medal of Honor Memorial Highway.”

The Medal of Honor is never “won,” so don’t call such people “winners.” Saying that disrespects the award because it is not an object of competition. It is earned by the bravest of the brave and those who get it are called recipients, awardees or holders. Since World War Two, more than 60% of the Medals were awarded posthumously. In other words, six out of every ten Medal holders died performing their heroic combat actions.

By the way, Col. Barnum, retired from the U.S. Marine Corps, is living in Virginia and is a life member of Cheshire’s VFW post.


John White


VFW Post 10052 


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