National Medal of Honor Day 2018
By Kenneth Dodd, 81st Training Wing Historian Office
/ Published March 26, 2018
KEESLER AIR FORCE BASE, Miss. --
In 1991, Congress passed Public Law 101-564 which designated March 25 of each year as National Medal of Honor Day. The day is dedicated to Medal of Honor recipients and is a time to remember the sacrifices of men and women in uniform who have earned their nation’s highest military honor.
Keesler Air Force Base pays tribute to Medal of Honor recipients through its memorialization program. Currently, five buildings and one street, are named in honor of Army Air Forces and Air Force members who “distinguished himself or herself conspicuously by gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his or her life above and beyond the call of duty.”
The following Keesler landmarks are name in honor of Medal of Honor recipients:
Vosler Academic Center - Named after Tech Sgt. Forrest L. Vosler on Oct. 27, 1995 for heroic actions on Dec. 20, 1943. He was awarded the Medal of Honor on Sept. 6, 1944.
Mathies Hall - Named after Staff Sgt. Archibald Mathies in 1995 for heroic action on Feb. 20, 1944. He was awarded the Medal of Honor on June 22, 1944.
Erwin Manor - Named after Staff Sgt. Henry Eugene Erwin on Aug. 2005 for heroic actions on April 12, 1945. He was awarded the Medal of Honor on April 19, 1945.
Levitow Training Support Facility - Named after Airman 1st Class John Levitow or heroic actions on Feb. 24, 1969. He was awarded the Medal of Honor on May 14, 1970.
Smith Manor - Named after Sgt. Maynard H. Smith on Mya 13, 1975 for heroic actions on May 1, 1943. He was awarded the Medal of Honor on July 12, 1943.
Etchberger Way - Named after Chief Master Sgt. Richard Etchberger on Sept. 16, 2013 for heroic actions March 11, 1968 at Lima Site 21. He was awarded the Medal of Honor on Sept. 21, 2010.
Ploesti Drive - Renamed on April 7, 1954 in honor of the men who participated in the Ploesti Oil Fields bombing campaign on Aug. 1, 1943 in Ploesti, Romania. Five Army Air Forces officers were awarded the Medal of Honor for these heroic actions.
The Medal of Honor is awarded only to military members by Congress and is also known as the Congressional Medal of Honor. Exceptions have been made to the military requirement and civilians have been awarded the Medal of Honor. Two examples are the medals awarded to Dr. Mary E. Walker for her contract services to the U.S. Army during the Civil War and to Charles A. Lindbergh for his “heroic courage and skill as a navigator” displayed during his nonstop transatlantic flight from New York to Paris, May 20-24, 1927. Currently three distinctive Medals of Honor are awarded to U.S. Military personnel: Army, Navy (to include Marines and U.S. Coast Guard), and Air Force. President Abraham Lincoln established the Navy Medal of Honor Dec. 21, 1861 and the Army Medal of Honor July 12, 1862. The U.S. Air Force was authorized its own Medal of Honor Aug. 10, 1956.
According to the Congressional Medal of Honor Society, there are 3,500 recipients of the Medal of Honor. Currently, only 71 recipients are still alive. Nineteen recipients were awarded the medal twice.
The first Air Force Medal of Honor was awarded to Maj. Bernard F. Fisher on Jan. 19, 1969 for his rescue of a downed Airman in Vietnam on March 10, 1966. The National Museum of the U.S. Air Force at Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio honors 60 Airmen who received the Medal of Honor in aerial combat and four noncombatant recipients of the Medal of Honor in an exhibit located in its Kettering Hall. All Air Force and Army Air Forces recipients of the Medal of Honor prior to August 10, 1956 were awarded the Army Medal of Honor.