Established in 1861, the Medal of Honor is my nation’s highest military decoration for valor. It is awarded to members of the US armed forces, who distinguish themselves “conspicuously by gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his or her life above and beyond the call of duty….”
Of more than 3,500 Medal of Honor recipients, nine were chaplains. These included four during the Civil War, one from World War II, one from the Korean War, and three from the Vietnam War.
In commemoration of Veterans Day I will feature one decorated veteran to represent other honorable veterans. All of them are worthy of high regard and remembrance. Today I will share about one hero, the only Chaplain from WW2 to receive the highest honor.
Lt. Commander Joseph Timothy O’Callahan (1905–1964) was awarded the Medal of Honor in 1946:
“For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty while serving as Chaplain on board the USS Franklin when that vessel was fiercely attacked by enemy Japanese aircraft…” in March 1945.
“A valiant and forceful leader, calmly braving the perilous barriers of flame and twisted metal to aid his men and his ship, Lt. Comdr. O’Callahan groped his way through smoke-filled corridors to the open flight deck and into the midst of violently exploding bombs, shells, rockets, and other armament. With the ship rocked by incessant explosions with debris and fragments raining down and fires raging in ever-increasing fury, he ministered to the wounded and dying, comforting and encouraging men of all faiths; he organized and led firefighting crews into the blazing inferno on the flight deck; he directed the jettisoning of live ammunition and the flooding of the magazine; he manned a hose to cool hot, armed bombs rolling dangerously on the listing deck, continuing his efforts, despite searing, suffocating smoke which forced men to fall back gasping and imperiled others who replaced them.
Serving with courage, fortitude, and deep spiritual strength, Lt. Cmdr. O’Callahan inspired the gallant officers and men of the Franklin to fight heroically and with profound faith in the face of almost certain death and to return their stricken ship to port.”
I am thankful for such veterans of our military. Many did selflessly go above and beyond their duty, and even more veterans honorably met their duty. They are all heroes. Their sacrificial service and valor give me hope. The gallant actions of Medal of Honor recipients give me hope.
These heroes have inspired young men and women all across America to follow their example, and it is an honorable choice to represent our country, protect our freedom, and serve under the flag of the USA.
“A nation that does not honor its heroes will not long endure.” (Abraham Lincoln)
“For by You I can run upon a troop; By my God I can leap over a wall. As for God, His way is blameless; The word of the LORD is tested; He is a shield to all who take refuge in Him. He trains my hands for battle so that my arms can bend a bow of bronze. You have also given me the shield of Your salvation, and Your help makes me great. You enlarge my steps under me, and my feet have not slipped. I pursued my enemies and destroyed them, and I did not turn back until they were consumed. And I have devoured them and shattered them so that they did not rise; And they fell under my feet. For You have girded me with strength for battle; You have subdued under me those who rose up against me.” (2 Samuel 22: 30-40)
“The LORD lives, and be my rock; And exalted be God, the Rock of my salvation, the God who executes vengeance for me, and brings down peoples under me, Who also brings me out from my enemies; You even lift me above those who rise up against me; You rescue me from the violent man. Therefore I will give thanks to You, O LORD, among the nations, and I will sing praises to Your name.”
(2 Samuel 22: 47-50)