President Obama Awards Medal of Honor to Korean War Heroes

President Obama Awards Medal of Honor to Korean War Heroes


Chaplain Carver:
Please join me in prayer. Almighty and loving God, we
ask your blessings upon this ceremony as we gather to
commemorate the noble lives and sacrifices of two of our
nations precious sons. Privates First Class Anthony
Kaho’ohanohano and Henry Svehla. Though, stirred by news
of the past 24 hours, we pause in these
moments to remember, the heroic combat actions taken
by these two soldiers on the Korean peninsula
some 60 years ago. Both Anthony and Henry,
responded fearlessly against an enemy onslaught and saved the
lives of their fellow soldiers. They led from the front,
and loved beyond measure. Portraying the ultimate
act of selfless service. Oh God remind us again today
that our nation has risen to her true greatness on
the shoulders of Americans like Anthony
and Henry. May this ceremony
serve to reinforce our awareness as a nation. That our country’s way of
life and our freedom is a priceless inheritance. One through the commitment and
sacrifice of those who have selflessly paid for our
freedom with their blood. May your blessing be upon the
families of Henry and Anthony, who have given their loved
ones to this nation and who have kept their memory
alive for this very moment. By your grace, may we never
forget their sacrifice in your holy name – Amen. The President:
Good morning, everybody. Please be seated. On behalf of
Michelle and myself, welcome to the White House. To our many guests
from Hawaii, aloha. And thank you, Chaplain Carver,
for that wonderful invocation. I think we can all agree this
is a good day for America. Our country has kept its
commitment to see that justice is done. The world is safer; it is a
better place because of the death of Osama bin Laden. Today, we are reminded
that, as a nation, there’s nothing we can’t do —
when we put our shoulders to the wheel, when we work together,
when we remember the sense of unity that defines
us as Americans. And we’ve seen that spirit
— that patriotism — in the crowds that
have gathered, here outside the White House,
at Ground Zero in New York, and across the country
— people holding candles, waving the flag, singing
the National Anthem — people proud to live in the
United States of America. And we’re reminded that we are
fortunate to have Americans who dedicate their lives
to protecting ours. They volunteer. They train. They endure separation
from their families. They take extraordinary
risks so that we can be safe. They get the job done. We may not always
know their names. We may not always
know their stories. But they are there, every day,
on the front lines of freedom, and we are truly blessed. I do want to acknowledge before
we begin the ceremony two individuals who have been
critical as part of my team who are here today: First of all, I
think somebody who will go down as one of the finest Secretaries
of Defense in our history, Secretary Bob
Gates, who is here. (applause) And sitting beside him, someone
who served with incredible valor on behalf of this country and is
now somebody who I think will go down as one of the greatest
Secretaries of Veterans Affairs in our history — Eric Shinseki. (applause) Now, I have to say that
as Commander-in-Chief, I could not be prouder of our
men and women in uniform. That is true now,
in today’s wars. It has been true
in all of our wars. And it is why we are here today. Long ago, a poet of the First
World War wrote of the sacrifice of young soldiers in war:
They shall not grow old, as we that are left grow old,
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn. At the going down of the sun and
in the morning, we will remember them. Today, we are joined by two
American families who six decades ago gave our
nation one of their own — Private First Class Henry
Svehla and Private First Class Anthony Kaho’ohanohano. They did not grow old. These two soldiers made the
ultimate sacrifice when they were just 19 and 21 years old. Age did not weary them. In the hearts of their families,
they remain forever young — loving sons,
protective brothers, hometown kids who stood tall
in America’s hometown — in America’s uniform. Today, we remember them. And we honor them with the
highest military decoration that our nation can bestow
— the Medal of Honor. In so doing we also
honor their families, who remind us that it is our
extraordinary military families who also bear the
heavy burden of war. We are joined by members
of Congress who are here. We very grateful for you. We are also joined by leaders
from the Army and our Armed Forces, including Chairman
of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen
and the Vice Chairman, General Jim “Hoss” Cartwright. Where — there they
are right there. (applause) And this is not in the script,
but let me just acknowledge that without the leadership of
Bob Gates, Mike Mullen, Hoss Cartwright, today
and yesterday would not have happened. And their steadiness
and leadership has been extraordinary. I could not be prouder of them,
and I am so grateful that they have been part of our team. (applause) I especially want to welcome
some of those who fought so bravely 60 years ago — our
inspiring Korean veterans — Korean War veterans who
have made the trip here. And I also want to acknowledge
those who are welcoming two more American heroes
into their ranks — members of the Medal
of Honor Society. Thank you so much
for your presence. (applause) This past November, I paid
a visit to South Korea — a visit that coincided with the
60th anniversary of the start of the Korean War, as well as
November 11th, Veterans Day. And I was privileged to spend
part of the day with our troops and with dozens of veterans
of the Korean War — members of a generation who, in
the words of their memorial here in Washington, fought for “a
country they never knew and a people they never met.” It was a generation that
included Private First Class Anthony Kaho’ohanohano. Tony grew up in Hawaii, in Maui. He learned early that we
have a duty to others — from his father, a dedicated
police officer, and his mother, who devoted herself to
their nine children. Tony was a tall guy. He loved Hawaii, swimming in the
ocean, playing basketball — sounds like my kind of guy. (laughter) His siblings remember
him as the big brother — quiet but strong —
who took care of them, stood up for them
in the neighborhood, and who would treat
them to ice cream. Tony’s loyalty to family was
matched by his love of country — even though Hawaii
wasn’t even a state yet. By September 1951, the Korean
War had been raging for more than a year, and Tony was part
of the 17th Infantry Regiment, 7th Infantry Division, which
had been fighting for strategic hills that could shape
the course of the war. His squad was near a village
called Chupa-ri when they came under a ferocious attack. With the enemy advancing,
with his men outnumbered, Tony made a decision. He ordered his squad to
fall back and seek cover. And then Tony did
something else. He stayed behind. Machine gun in hand, he
laid down fire so his men could get to safety. He was one American
soldier, alone, against an approaching army. When Tony was wounded in
the shoulder, he fought on. He threw grenade after grenade. When his weapon ran out of
ammunition, he grabbed another. And when he ran
out of ammo, he reached for the only thing left — a shovel. That’s when the enemy
overran his position. And in those final moments,
the combat was hand to hand. It was that bravery
— that courage — of a single soldier that
inspired his men to regroup, to rally and to
drive the enemy back. And when they finally
reached Tony’s position, the measure of his
valor became clear. After firing so many
bullets, the barrel of his machine gun was literally bent. But Tony had stood his ground. He had saved the
lives of his men. After his death, Tony was
awarded the Army’s second highest award for valor — the
Distinguished Service Cross. But his family felt
he deserved more. And so did Senator — and World
War II vet — Danny Akaka. We’re honored that Senator
Akaka has joined us, as well as Mazie Hirono. And obviously we are
extraordinarily grateful that we’re joined by another Senator
and a Medal of Honor recipient, Dan Inouye. Thank you so much
for your presence. (applause) Now, Hawaii is a small state,
but the Kaho’ohanohanos are a very big family. In fact, I went to high
school with one of their cousins, Whitey. Tell Whitey I said, “How’s it?” (laughter) This is a remarkable family. Service defines them. Tony’s father and all six
sons served in the military. Another member of the family
has served in Afghanistan. Nearly 30 members of the family
have traveled from Hawaii to be here, including Tony’s sister
Elaine and brother Eugene. For the sacrifice that
your family endured, for the service that your
family has rendered — thank you so much. Mahalo nui loa. I would ask that you all join
me in welcoming Tony’s nephew George,
who worked for many years to get his uncle
the honor that he deserved. George. (applause) Military Aide
(reading the citation):
The President of the United States of America, authorized by
act of Congress, March 3, 1863, has awarded, in the
name of Congress, the Medal of Honor to
Private First Class Anthony T. Kaho’ohanohano,
United States Army, for conspicuous gallantry and
intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond
the call of duty. Private First Class Anthony T.
Kaho’ohanohano, Company H, 17th Infantry Regiment,
7th Infantry Division, distinguished himself by
extraordinary heroism in action against the enemy in the
vicinity of Chupa-ri, Korea, on one September 1951. On that date, Private First
Class Kaho’ohanohano was in charge of machine-gun squads
supporting the defense positioning of Company F when a
numerically superior enemy force launched a fierce attack. Because of the enemy’s
overwhelming numbers, friendly troops were forced to
execute a limited withdrawal. As the men fell back, Private
First Class Kaho’ohanohano ordered his squad to take up
more defensible positions and provide covering fire for the
withdrawing friendly force. Although having been wounded in
the soldier during the initial enemy assault, Private First
Class Kaho’ohanohano gathered a supply of grenades and
ammunition and returned to his original position to
face the enemy alone. As the hostile troops
concentrated their strength against his emplacement and
in an effort to overrun it, Private First Class
Kaho’ohanohano fought fiercely and courageously, delivering
deadly accurate fire into the ranks of the onrushing enemy. When his ammunition
was depleted, he engaged the enemy in
hand-to-hand combat until he was killed. Private First Class
Kaho’ohanohano’s heroic stand so inspired his comrades that they
launched a counter-attack that completely repulsed the enemy. Upon reaching Private First
Class Kaho’ohanohano’s emplacement, friendly troops
discovered 11 enemy soldiers lying dead in front of the
emplacement, and two inside it, killed in hand-to-hand combat. Private First Class
Kaho’ohanohano’s extraordinary heroism and selfish devotion to
duty are in keeping with the finest traditions
of military service, and reflect great
credit upon himself, the 7th Infantry Division
and the United States Army. (The Medal is presented.) (applause) The President:
About the time that Tony
was inspiring his men, another young soldier was
joining up with the 7th Infantry Division in Korea — Private
First Class Henry Svehla. He grew up in New Jersey. He loved fishing on
the Jersey shore. He was one of six kids
and the youngest son, but the one who seemed to
take care of everybody else. His sister Dorothy remembers
how their mom would be in the kitchen, at the
end of a long day, trying to cook
dinner for six kids. Henry — a teenager
— would walk in, grab his mother’s hand and
dance her around the kitchen. “If anybody needed him,” said
Dorothy, “Henry was there.” And he was there for
America, in Korea, as the war neared its
third and final year. Henry knew the dangers. And in one of his last
letters home, he wrote, “I may not return.” That June of 1952, the
heat was unbearable. The monsoon rains and
mosquitoes were relentless. But the 7th Infantry
Division pushed on — probing enemy lines, fighting
bunker by bunker, hill by hill. And as Henry and his company
neared the top of one hill, the rocky slopes seemed to
explode with enemy fire. His unit started to falter, and
that’s when Henry made his move. He stood up. He looked ahead. And he charged forward
into a hail of bullets. Those who were there describe
how he kept firing his weapon, kept hurling
grenades, and how — even after being
wounded in the face — he refused medical attention
and kept leading the charge. That’s when an enemy grenade
landed among his men. Every human instinct,
every impulse, would tell a person
to turn away. But at that critical moment,
Henry Svehla did the opposite. He threw himself
on that grenade. And with his sacrifice,
he saved the lives of his fellow soldiers. Henry Svehla’s body has
never been recovered. That’s a wound in the
heart of his family that has never been fully healed. It’s also a reminder
that, as a nation, we must never forget those
who didn’t come home, are missing in action, who
were taken prisoner of war — and we must never stop
trying to bring them back to their families. Henry was awarded the
Distinguished Service Cross, but his family believed that
he had earned this nation’s highest military honor. They contacted their
congressman and his staff, who made it their mission, and
we thank Representative Bill Pascrell for making
this day possible. Henry’s parents and brothers
did not live to see this day, but two of his sisters
— Dorothy and Sylvia — are with us. Dorothy, Sylvia, you remind us
that behind every American who wears our nation’s uniform
stands a family who serves with them. And behind every American who
lays down their life for our country is a family who
mourns them, and honors them, for the rest of their lives. Every day, for nearly 60 years,
you have lived the poet’s words: At the going down of the sun
and in the morning We will remember them. And so I want to conclude today
by inviting everyone to join me in welcoming Henry’s sister
Dorothy to the stage for the presentation of the medal. (applause) Military Aide
(reading the citation):
The President of the United States, authorized by Act
of Congress, March 3, 1863, has awarded, in the
name of Congress, the Medal of Honor to Private
First Class Henry Svehla, United States Army, for
conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity and
the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty. Private First Class Henry Svehla
distinguished himself by acts of gallantry and intrepidity above
and beyond the call of duty while serving as a
rifleman with F Company, 32nd Infantry Regiment,
7th Infantry Division, in connection with combat
operations against an armed enemy in Pyongony,
Korea, on 12 June, 1952. That afternoon, while Private
First Class Svehla and his platoon were patrolling a
strategic hill to determine enemy strength and positions,
they were subjected to intense enemy automatic
weapons and small arms fire at the top of the hill. Coming under heavy fire,
the platoon’s attack began to falter. Realizing the success of mission
and the safety of the remaining troops were in peril, Private
First Class Svehla leapt to his feet and charged
the enemy positions, firing his weapon and throwing
grenades as he advanced. In the face of this
courage and determination, the platoon rallied to
attack with renewed vigor. Private First Class Svehla,
utterly disregarding his own safety, destroyed enemy
positions and inflicted heavy casualties, when suddenly,
fragments from a mortar round exploding nearby seriously
wounded him in the face. Despite his wounds, Private
First Class Svehla refused medical treatment and
continued to lead the attack. When an enemy grenade landed
among a group of his comrades, Private First Class Svehla,
without hesitation and undoubtedly aware
of extreme danger, threw himself upon the grenade. During this action, Private
First Class Svehla was mortally wounded. Private First Class Svehla’s
extraordinary heroism and selflessness at the
cost of his own life, above and beyond
the call of duty, are in keeping with the highest
traditions of the military service and reflect great
credit upon himself, his unit and the
United States Army. (The Medal is presented.) (applause) The President:
Let’s give both families
a big round of applause — (applause) — for Anthony and for Henry. (applause) Chaplain Carver:
Please join me in prayer. Gracious God, you’ve stirred our
hearts once again today as we’ve heard the accounts of two
great American soldiers, who valued the lives of those
under their care more than their very own. You’ve told us in the Holy
Scripture that there’s no greater love than this. And so, would you etch this
eternal truth in our own hearts as we carry out our
responsibilities to you, our families and
our great nation. Bless the young men and
women of our armed services, who walk in the footsteps
of both Anthony and Henry, protecting and defending our
lives in freedom’s cost. And, Lord, continue to bless,
empower and give great wisdom to our President, Barack
Obama, as he leads our nation in these challenging times. And God bless America. In your holy name, we pray. Amen. Audience:
Amen. The President:
Thank you so much, everyone. Please enjoy the reception. And again, to the families, we
could not be prouder of Anthony and Henry. We are grateful for
their sacrifice. We are grateful
for your sacrifice. You have made this
country safer. Tony and Henry stand as a model
of courage and patriotism. God bless you. And God bless the United
States of America. Thank you, everyone. (applause)

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