MARINE BARRACKS WASHINGTON, Washington D.C. -- Twenty-six outstanding Marines were honored at a Medal of Honor flag presentation ceremony held at Marine Barracks Washington, D.C., Aug. 3.
A crowd of more than 1,000 friends, families and patriotic spectators watched on as General Michael W. Hagee, 33rd Commandant of the Marine Corps, and Sgt. Maj. John L. Estrada, 15th Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps presented flags to 16 Medal of Honor recipients, as well as 10 family members of MOH recipients.
"On behalf of all Marines, thank you for your service and example for the thousands of Marines that followed you," said Hagee, addressing the recipients. "Your legacy is these Marines."
The concept of the Medal of Honor flag was approved by both houses of Congress and signed into law by President George W. Bush in October, 2002. The Medal of Honor flag commemorates the sacrifice and blood shed for freedom, and emphasizes the Medal of Honor’s place as the highest award for valor that can be given to an individual serving in the Armed Forces of the United States. The flag’s light blue color and white stars match the colors found on the Medal of Honor ribbon.
The medal is awarded "in the name of the Congress of the United States" and for this reason, it is often called the Congressional Medal of Honor. It is only on rare occasions, however, that Congress awards special Medals of Honor. An 1905 Executive Order signed by President Theodore Roosevelt directed that ceremonies of award "will always be made with formal and impressive ceremonies" and that the recipient "will, when practicable, be ordered to Washington, D.C., and the presentation will be made by the President, as Commander in Chief, or by such representative as the President may designate."
At the ceremony, each MOH recipient or family member accepted a flag from Gen. Hagee. As Vietnam War MOH recipient Sgt. Maj. Allan J. Kellog, Jr. was presented with his flag, the final presentation of the evening, the crowd gave the honorees a rousing standing ovation.
Cpl. Amber T. Chavarria, a Marine Barracks Washington protocol non-commissioned officer who assisted Gen. Hagee and Sgt. Maj. Estrada in presenting the flags, said she felt proud just to be in the presence of such heroic individuals. "It's hard to describe how it feels being a part of this," added Chavarria. "These gentlemen did so far above and beyond what they were asked - and they did it in order for me to be able to do my job."
From one-man stands against attacking enemies, to throwing themselves over exploding grenades to save the lives of their fellow Marines, the heroism and pride generated by these warriors, who span the generations from World War II to Vietnam, was palpable.
"Being in the presence of these Marines is a once-in-a-lifetime experience," said Lance Cpl. Sean J. Sorbie, MBW training NCO. "I don't think there has ever been this many Medal of Honor recipients together at one time before. I am proud just to have been a part of it."
The parade ceremony concluded with the United States Marine Drum and Bugle Corps' playing of the Marines Hymn, and a pass-in-review featuring Alpha and Bravo companies. The pass-in-review brought the crowd to their feet as nearly 200 Marines of the Oldest Post in the Corps rendered an official salute to this elite group of Marines warriors and family members.
"Nobody does it up like the Marine Corps," said Jack H. Lucas, who was awarded the Medal of Honor for actions against Japanese forces on Iwo Jima. "To have these young men here in our presence - it just rejuvenates this old heart of mine. I love the Corps even more knowing that my country is defended by such fine young people."