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Heroes and Patriots
By Chelsea Place

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Medal Of Honor Recipient Laid To Rest In Arlington National Cemetery
(September 25, 2010)

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WASHINGTON (Army News Service, Sept. 24, 2010) -- A fallen World War II veteran and Medal of Honor recipient was laid to rest with full military honors at Arlington National Cemetery, Sept. 24, 2010.

Army 1st Lt. Vernon Baker, Medal of Honor Recipient - World War IIThe ceremony for former Army 1st Lt. Vernon J. Baker, who died July 13, was attended by his widow, Heidy Baker, and retired Lt. Gen. Robert F. Foley, also a Medal of Honor recipient.

Baker is one of seven African-Americans to be awarded the Medal of Honor for service in WWII. Of those, he was the only one to receive the medal in person -- the others were awarded the medal posthumously.

Baker, born in 1919, was awarded the Medal of Honor for his heroic acts in 1945 in Viareggio, Italy.
“When his company was stopped by the concentration of fire from several machine gun emplacements, he crawled to one position and destroyed it, killing three Germans,” reads Baker's Medal of Honor citation. “Continuing forward, he attacked an enemy observation post and killed two occupants. With the aid of one of his men, lieutenant Baker attacked two more machine gun nests, killing or wounding the four enemy soldiers occupying these positions.”

The citation goes on to describe how Baker, the only African-American officer in his company, voluntarily led a battalion through an enemy mine field and withstood heavy fire in order to take control of a castle stronghold.

Originally awarded Purple Heart, Bronze Star and Distinguished Service Cross medals for his service, it would be 52 years until Baker received full recognition for his acts.

Honor guard Soldiers from the 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard) pay honors to 1st Lt. Vernon J. Baker during his burial at Arlington National Cemetery September 24, 2010. 
Honor guard Soldiers from the 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard) pay honors to 1st Lt. Vernon J. Baker during his burial at Arlington National Cemetery September 24, 2010.

In 1993 the government commissioned a study to learn why no Medals of Honor had been awarded to African American Soldiers who served during World War II. In 1997, President Clinton awarded Baker the Medal of Honor, along with six other African Americans.

“The only thing that I can say to those who are not here with me is, 'Thank you, fellas, well done,'" Baker said after the 1997 ceremony, according to a Washington Post story. "'And I will always remember you.”

Today, there are 394 Medal of Honor recipients buried at Arlington National Cemetery. 

By Chelsea Place
Pentagram Newspaper

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