Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Our Heroes Live In Our Hearts

Whoa! Better late than never, right?

44 awarded the Medal of Honor to two American soldiers, one African-American and one Jewish, whose valor and sacrifice on the French front lines during World War I had not been fully recognized.

Pvt. Henry Johnson on night sentry duty on May 15, 1918, Private Johnson of the Army helped his “Harlem Hellfighters” regiment repel a surprise attack by a dozen German raiders. With only a knife, he single-handedly held off the enemy, preventing the capture of a wounded fellow soldier.

Private Johnson died about a decade later, a victim of 21 combat-related injuries.

Sgt. William Shemin, of the 4th Infantry Division, serving as a rifleman during the Aisne-Marne Offensive, Aug. 7-9, 1918, he left the cover of his platoon's trench and crossed open space, repeatedly exposing himself to heavy machine gun and rifle fire to rescue the wounded.

After officers and senior noncommissioned officers had become casualties, Shemin took command of the platoon until he was wounded by shrapnel and a machine-gun bullet, which pierced his helmet and lodged behind his left ear.

He was hospitalized for three months and then received light duty as part of the Army occupation in Germany and Belgium.

For his injuries, he received the Purple Heart and he was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross, Dec. 29, 1919.

Shemin was honorably discharged in August 1919, and went on to receive a degree from the New York State College of Forestry at Syracuse University. After graduation, he started a greenhouse and landscaping business in Bronx, New York, where he raised three children.