Memorial Day may be a 3-day weekend filled with sales, barbeques, and the unofficial start to summer, but underneath all the celebration is a much more somber reason for the day. Memorial Day is meant to reflect and remember service members who have made the ultimate sacrifice. We’ve compiled just a few of those innumerable stories of bravery. The heroic actions of each of these service members resulted in posthumous awardings of the Medal of Honor.
Private First Class Joe E. Mann, USA
Mann came from humble beginnings, growing up on a farm in Washington state. He followed in the footsteps of his father and brothers and joined up in 1941, but a series of pre-enlistment injuries hindered his ability to pursue his goal of becoming a pilot. He was first assigned to the 506th Infantry Regiment of the 101st Airborne Division (best known for being the subject of “Band of Brothers”) but soon transferred to the 502nd regiment. Though he missed the D-Day invasion of Normandy’s beaches, he found himself on a mission to capture bridges that would help forward a northern invasion of Nazi Germany. The morning after sustaining arm injuries in battle, Germans barraged his foxhole with grenades. After throwing a few out, he jumped on top of the ones left to protect the injured men. He died almost instantly, but his selfless and heroic action helped save the lives of his fellow soldiers.
First Lieutenant John R. Fox, USA
Hailing from Cincinnati, Fox enlisted in 1940 when he was 25 years old. The day after Christmas in 1944, Fox was one of a small party that stayed back in a small Italian village after Germans overran it. In a moment of absolute selflessness, Fox called in for defensive artillery fire, which was getting increasingly closer to his position. His commander resisted, because Fox was calling for the fire to be on his position. It was essentially a suicide mission. But Fox refused to let up and his commander eventually relented. Fox’s call took his own life, but surrounding his body were the bodies of over 100 German soldiers. His ultimate sacrifice gave U.S. forces the ability to stage a counterattack and 6 days later on New Year’s Day 1945 they retook the position.
Master Sergeant Gary Gordon, USA
Hailing from Lincoln, Maine, Gordon enlisted at age 18 and was a combat engineer for years. Then he was selected to join Delta Force, an elite Special Forces group. In 1993, he was deployed to Somalia to assist in the protection of United Nations humanitarian aid workers. A civil war was consuming the nation, and local warlords often interfered with the distribution of the aid. During an air raid of Somalia’s capital, things went awry when two of the Black Hawks in their helicopter squad were shot down. Ground forces weren’t able to get to the second crash site and protect it. That’s when Gordon’s sense of duty kicked in. After two denied attempts to protect the survivors, they were given the green light to go in. Gordon went in, along with another Delta Force soldier, Army Sgt. 1st Class Randall Shughart. They managed to pull the Black Hawk’s pilot Chief Warrant Officer 3 Michael Durant from the wreck. Shughart was fatally injured and Gordon ran out of ammunition, but he dug out more from the chopper. He gave Durant the last rifle and ammo, and went back to keep fighting with just his pistol. He was shot and killed almost immediately. And though Durant was taken hostage, he was freed two weeks later. Had it not been for Gordon’s selflessness, Durant wouldn’t have made it.
Posted on May 24 2021 in Blog