Governor Steve Beshear today joined lawmakers and veterans' groups from across the Commonwealth to unveil a bronze plaque listing the names of Kentucky's 60 Medal of Honor recipients.
Three of Kentucky's five living Medal of Honor recipients attended the event.
"It's a privilege to present this plaque that proudly lists the names of individuals who have selflessly served our country and fought for our freedom," Gov. Beshear said. "This symbol of their sacrifice and bravery can now be shared with the thousands of Capitol visitors, who can pay their respects and acknowledge the amazing achievements of these individuals."
The Medal of Honor is the highest award for valor in action against an enemy force that can be bestowed upon an individual serving in the Armed Services of the United States. The award is generally presented to its recipient by the President of the United States of America in the name of Congress.
Kentucky currently has five living Medal of Honor recipients. PFC. Ernie West, SSG Don Jenkins and SGT Dakota Meyer attended the ceremony. SFC Gary Littrell and PVT Wilburn Ross are Kentucky's other two recipients.
PVT Ross received his Medal of Honor for valor in World War II; SFC Littrell received his Medal of Honor for valor in the Vietnam War; SSG Jenkins received his Medal of Honor for valor in the Vietnam War; PFC West received his Medal of Honor for valor in the Korean War; and SGT Meyer received his Medal of Honor for valor in the War on Terror in Afghanistan.
The plaque includes the name of the first and only woman to earn the Medal of Honor, Dr. Mary Edwards Walker, of Louisville, who received her honor in the Civil War. She was not a member of the military, but served as a combat surgeon with such valor that the officers who served with her insisted she had earned the medal.
The breakdown of Kentucky's 60 Medal of Honor recipients includes:
17 from the Civil War,
12 from Indian Campaigns,
3 during Peacetime,
3 during Wars of American Expansion (including the Spanish-American War),
1 during World War I,
8 during World War II,
7 during the Korean War,
8 during the Vietnam War, and
1 from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
In 2011, legislation was sponsored by Rep. Tanya Pullin, of South Shore, that called for the creation of the plaque to honor Kentucky Medal of Honor recipients.
"Because Ernie West and John Collier are from Greenup County, we have a special connection in our community to the Medal of Honor," Rep. Pullin said. "We, as a community, glow with pride that two of our own have received the Medal of Honor, the highest honor bestowed in the military of the United States."
Rep. Pullin and Sen. Jack Westwood, of Erlanger, are the chairs of the Kentucky Interim Joint Committee on Veterans, Military Affairs and Public Protection.
"This is an historic occasion. This exceptional plaque memorializes our 60 distinguished heroes and will be proudly put on display and forever cherished by fellow Kentuckians for generations to come," Sen. Westwood said. "Their service, sacrifice, and bravery are deeply appreciated. In their noble example, we see the virtues and the values that sustain America, that keep this country great. For all that these individuals have done, I offer my thanks."
The plaque will hang in the Capitol Rotunda, opposite the statue of Abraham Lincoln, whose administration worked with Congress to create the Medal of Honor in 1862 to recognize acts of valor during the Civil War. For more information on the Medal of Honor, visit http://www.cmohs.org.