Military Matters: Independence Day - WTVM.com-Columbus, GA News Weather & Sports

Military Matters: Independence Day

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FORT BENNING, GA (WTVM) -

On this Independence Day, we've chosen to recognize a number of certified heroes. They've given it all on the battlefield, many making the ultimate sacrifice. 

It is the highest military decoration awarded by the U.S. government, and more than 3,500 soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines have earned it.

 "The nation's oldest award for bravery is the Medal of Honor, and it came about during our bloodiest war, our Civil War, 1861 to 1865," said Frank Hanner, director of the National Infantry Museum.

The first recipients were Union soldiers, who went undercover to steal a Confederate train. It led to the Great Locomotive Chase between Atlanta and Chattanooga.

The 20th century had its share of heroes, too.

The Main Post Cemetery at Fort Benning is the final resting place of three Medal of Honor recipients, two of them buried side by side.

Donald R. Johnston of Columbus, Georgia, who earned the Medal of Honor at age 19, fighting in Vietnam, and beside him is Col. Robert Nett, known to the community as Bob Nett. He earned his Medal of Honor fighting in the Pacific against the Japanese during World War II.

Hanner talks proudly of the display known as the Hall of Valor, which honors not only the Army and Infantry, but every branch of the military.  

"If your ancestor earned the Medal of Honor in the Navy, his story is in there and you can actually read what they accomplished," Hanner said.

By the way, it's not an all male club; one woman was presented with a medal after the Civil War. Dr. Mary Walker was recognized for her expertise as a surgeon.

Perhaps it's best to hear from a recipient himself. Ola Mize, who received the Medal of Honor in 1953, describes the ceremony in which President Eisenhower placed the ribbon around his neck.

"Here's an old country boy from northeast Alabama, redneck, meeting the President of the United States," Mize said. "It was just...it was unreal. And he stood there and talked to me, then put the medal around my neck. He seen I was nervous and he comes and says, ‘I would be too, a fellow as young as you are looking at an old crow like that.' Broke the ice."

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