President Barak Obama will award the Medal of Honor to two WWI veterans who have been previously denied this mark of respect, due to racial and religious discrimination. The distinction will be performed posthumously an hopes to set an example for the future generations and also to take the highest stand against discrimination.
One of the two heroes is Pvt. William Henry Johnson, an African-American soldier who fought in the 369th Infantry Regiment, 93rd Division, in the American Expeditionary Forces, as stated in a press release that the White House issued.
He was a member of the “Harlem Hellfighters”, as the Germans called them because they greatly feared them, as they had become famous for their fierce fighting . The French respectfully referred to them as the “Men of Bronze” . They were stationed in France and placed under French command, as black soldiers were not allowed to fight alongside white American soldiers.
Only 21 years old at the time, he fought bravely to defend his comrades and himself in a surprise attack by the German army. After firing only three shots, his riffle got jammed and using it as a club instead, he jumped in the middle of the enemy soldiers.
Ultimately, he fought them using only his hands and still, somehow he managed to send the Germans running and to prevent his colleague from being taken prisoner.A few days passed until help got to them and Johnson was found barely alive, after he had sustained extensive injuries.
He did not die that day however, but ten years later in the US, when he found himself estranged from his family and friends and coping with the effects of alcoholism. Since he does not have any relatives left, his Medal of Honor will be accepted by Command Sgt. Maj. Louis Wilson member of the New York National Guard.
The second hero, Sergeant William Shemin was a Jewish soldier who also served in France in WWI. His actions of bravery have saved some of his fellow soldiers from certain death. He valiantly ran in open fire several times so as to save his wounded comrades. The last time that he did that he sustained severe injuries to the head and was hospitalized for a long time afterwards.
Ultimately, he received an honorable discharge and he went on with his life. He got a college degree in Forestry from Syracuse University later on and managed to open a successful landscaping business in his home town, the Bronx.
He even found time to start a family and has raised three wonderful children. Actually, it is the eldest of his children who will be accepting the Medal of Honor on his behalf at the ceremony.
In both cases, the family and friends of these brave men have been battling for years so that they receive the highest distinction that America has to offer. By honoring these outstanding men, previous damage caused by extreme discrimination could begin to be mended. These two WWI heroes will be presented with their Medals of Honor posthumously by President Barak Obama.
Image Source: gannett-cdn