President Barack Obama recently awarded the Medal of Honor to Army Sergeant William Shemin and Army Private Henry Johnson for heroic acts while serving in World War I.
Certainly it's a bit late to be honoring heroes from a war that ended almost a century ago, but according to Obama, "It's never too late to say thank you."
According to a press release from The White House, Shemin put his life on the line, exposing himself to "heavy machine gun and rifle fire" to tend to and rescue wounded soldiers. Following the death of senior officers, he took command of the platoon until he became wounded himself a few days later.
Private Henry Johnson had volunteered for military service and was assigned to the legendary "Harlem Hellfighters," an all-black unit out of New York. He is being recognized for protecting his fellow soldier under heavy enemy fire.
While on night sentry duty on May 15, 1918, Private Johnson and a fellow Soldier received a surprise attack by a German raiding party consisting of at least 12 soldiers. When his fellow soldier was badly wounded, Private Johnson prevented him from being taken prisoner by German forces. Private Johnson exposed himself to grave danger by advancing from his position to engage an enemy soldier in hand-to-hand combat. Displaying great courage, Private Johnson held back the enemy force until they retreated.
Because Shemin was Jewish and Johnson was African American, neither was given adequate recognition by the U.S. Military at the time, though France awarded Johnson its highest military honor (the Croix de Guerre).
The Root reports that when Johnson returned from the war, he did not receive any disability benefits for his war-related injuries and he died in 1929 "a penniless alcoholic."
Hopefully these posthumous honors will serve as a reminder to honor and appreciate our nation's war heroes — before it's too late.