A soft and constant rustle of leaves from the tall trees, barely audible, seemed to be speaking in reverence to the hallowed grounds they adorned as the Honoring our Heroes ceremony took place at the Freedoms Foundation at Valley Forge, Medal of Honor Grove on September 24, 2016.
A military multiservice honor guard detail proudly presents the colors during the Freedoms Foundation's Medal of Honor Grove Honor our Heroes Ceremony on Sep. 24, 2016 in Phoenixville, PA. Broader diversity than just their service affiliation, the group is comprised of active-duty, Guard and Reserve members. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Christopher Botzum)
Before the event even kicked off, a Pennsylvania Army National Guard H-60 Blackhawk helicopter from Fort Indiantown Gap, Pennsylvania, made a whirlwind entrance bringing in guests of honor to the ceremony, among those, The Adjutant General of Pennsylvania Brig. Gen. Tony Carrelli.
The helipad was named after Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower, as he was a key founder of the Freedoms Foundation in 1949 and served as the first foundation chairman.
Longtime workers and volunteers of the grove could not recount the helipad's use as a landing zone since its naming in the 1960s.
As hundreds gathered on an overlooking hill seated on blankets and folding chairs, Pennsylvania State Rep., Andy Dinniman (Pa. 19th District) emceed the ceremony.
“Every state was given an acre of land, including an acre for the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico; on this land, an obelisk resembling that of the Washington Monument,” said Dinniman. “On and surrounding each monument, are the names of every single [Medal of Honor recipient] from that state.
Completed in the late 1970s, the Medal of Honor Grove now consists of more than 52 woodland acres of rolling-hills. More than 4 miles of paved walkways guide visitors past out coves designated by state.
The day was not only a commemoration to heroes, but a remembrance approximating the end of various U.S. wars, such as: 100th anniversary of World War I, 75th anniversary of World War II, 65th anniversary of the Korean War, 50th anniversary of the Vietnam War and the 25th anniversary of the Gulf War.
“Acts of service are acts of love,” said Pennsylvania Lt. Gov. Mike Stack. “I was blessed to serve for a number of years in the National Guard.”
Among the other speakers at the ceremony was retired Army Col. Walter Marm, Jr., sole surviving Pennsylvania native Medal of Honor recipient.
Retired Army Col. Walter Marm, Jr., the sole surviving native-Pennsylvanian Medal of Honor recipient (left), Pennsylvania Lt. Gov. Mike Stack and Pennsylvania Adjutant General Brig. Gen. Anthony Carrelli join in signing “America the Beautiful” during the closing of the Honoring our Heroes Ceremony held at the Freedoms Foundation's, Medal of Honor Grove on Sep. 24, 2016 in Phoenixville, PA. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Christopher Botzum)
“I was in the first major battle in Vietnam, call the battle of la Drang Valley,” said Marm. “Mel Gibson made a movie of the battle, ‘“We Were Soldiers”' based on that very intense, 3-day battle. We were surrounded and outnumbered 10 – 1. After the battle, 79 Americans were killed in action and 121 [were] wounded of the 450 men.
“We're honoring all the veterans from all the wars here today and that's very special. I wear the Medal of Honor for all the brave men and women I served with. It's as much their medal as it in mine,” Marm said.
Marm, a 30-year veteran, served out his final seven years in the service locally as a senior adviser with the Army Reserve at the former Willow Grove Naval Air Station, Horsham, Pennsylvania.
“This is a place of true American heroes,” said Carrelli. “To be in the presence of a Medal of Honor recipient is awe inspiring.”
“We are forever linked with our servicemen of the past,” said Carrelli. “Since 9/11, we've deployed nearly 35,000 Guardsmen in support of Iraq and Afghanistan. The spirit of the American service member has remained unchanged.”
Fewer than 3,500 individuals have been recipients of the Medal of Honor, most posthumously. Among them is one women from Kentucky, two sets of father/son recipients, the youngest person being an 11-year-old drummer serving in the Union Army in 1862.
Bordering historic Valley Forge National Park, the Medal of Honor Grove is a local treasure in our own backyard, not a place of interest just for serviceman, but for every American.
Learn more about the Medal of Honor Grove
By U.S. Air National Guard Master Sgt. Christopher Botzum
Provided through DVIDS
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