Medal of Honor Recipient

– One of the things I love about being a public affairs Sergeant in
the Missouri National Guard is getting the chance to share some of our military heroes stories. The Public Affairs Office
was privileged to host a press conference for a World War one medal of honor recipient. Here’s the story of
Sergeant William Shemin. – Can be simply told in loving words. “Discrimination hurts. A
wrong has been made right. “All is forgiven.” – [Sergeant Elise] When Elsie Shemin-Roth, the daughter of Army
Sergeant William Shemin was just a young girl, she learned that due to discrimination, her father never received the medal that he deserved. – He remained in very close contact with a gentleman named Jim Pritchard. He was an Irish man, an Irish cop, and he was one of the three
men that my father had saved. So, I was sitting on the
porch with Jim one day, and I was about 12 and he said to me, “You know, I think you
would understand this now,” and we were talking about my father and a little bit about
the war and he said, “Your father never received
the medal that he deserved “because he was a Jew.” – [Sergeant Elise] In
2002, Elsie learned about a newly established
Congressional review process for any Jewish or Hispanic American who received the
distinguised-service cross during or after World War two. Although Elsie’s father
fought in World War one, she did not believe it would
be a problem for the Army to review her father’s case. – I went to many politicians. The rule is World War two. I said, “Then, explain to
me, what is the difference “of anti-semitism between World War one “and World War two, explain that to me.” Nobody could explain it. – [Sergeant Elise] Elsie
decided to seek counsel from the Jewish war veterans
who put her in touch with Colonel Erwin Bertnick, an expert on awards and decorations. After Colonel Bernick
reviewed Sergeant Shemin’s distinguished-service cross citation, he told Elsie she had something special and should get in touch
with her local Congressman. With the help of Congressman
Blaine Luetkemeyer and after 13 years of hard work, Elsie received a call from the President. – Boy, was I honored. I was so honored. I sat in my kitchen all by myself after having, all my cats are
there, and I said to my cats, “Guess what! I just
spoke to the President!” And they looked at me,
“Ehh, so what.” Ya know? (laughter) But I called all my kids
because we didn’t expect this. – [Sergeant Elise] Sergeant William Shemin enlisted in the Army at age 18 and by 19, was experiencing
trench warfare. Sergeant Shemin was a rifleman
for the Fourth Infantry division during combat operations against the enemy in France. During the Summer of
1918, in broad daylight, Sergeant Shemin left the
cover of his platoons trench three times and crossed open space, repeatedly exposing himself
to heavy machine gun fire and rifle fire to rescue his comrades. After Officers and Senior
non-commissioned Officers had become casualties, Shemin took command of the platoon and displayed
great initiative under fire until he was wounded. Sergeant Shemin received the
distinguished-service cross for battlefield valor December 29th, 1919, and with the help of his daughter and other concerned citizens, was posthumously awarded
the medal of honor on June 2nd, 2015. – The vision that I hope was true, I hope it wasn’t a dream,
but maybe dreams are real, I saw my father when
this announcement came. The President said yes. Sitting in a chair, much as I am. He’s big and his head was down and he was looking down. And there were tears
coming out of his eyes. And I knew what it was. He knew. He was so proud. He never said a word. And that is exactly if he were here how he would say it. – [Sergeant Elise] President Barack Obama honored two World War one soldiers with medals of honor. Sergeant Shemin, a Jew,
and Private Henry Johnson, an African-American. The President said it was long overdue and the nation will
work as long as it takes to make sure all of it’s
heroes stories are told. – Elsie, as much as America
meant to your father, he means even more to America. Takes our nation too
long sometimes to say so because Sergeant Shemin served at a time when the contributions and heroism of Jewish-Americans in uniform were too often overlooked. But, William Shemin saved American lives. He represented our nation with honor. So, it is my privilege on
behalf of the American people to make this right and finally
award the medal of honor to Sergeant William Shemin. (applause) – [Sergeant Elise] Staff
Sergeant Elise Rich, Missouri Air National Guard,
Jefferson Barracks, Missouri.

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