Mark Kennedy: Tennessee-linked Medal of Honor winners honored in new children's book

Mark Kennedy, Chattanooga Times Free Press, Tenn.
·3 min read

Mar. 21—Thursday, March 25, is National Medal of Honor Day, which may or may not be noted on your desk calendar.

But if you're a parent, please know that March 25 is also the release date of a children's book by a Chattanooga author that definitely should be on your radar.

Linda Moss Mines, a former teacher at Girls Preparatory School, has written "The Making of a Hero: Six Stories of the Medal of Honor" featuring vignettes about decorated Americans who embody teachable character traits.

"We need heroes," Mines said. "I think we all struggle today looking for people who have led exemplary lives."

You don't have to look far among the nation's roughly 3,500 Medal of Honor recipients to find role models.

Mines, who is a volunteer and board member for the Charles H. Coolidge National Medal of Honor Heritage Center in Chattanooga, says the book will be distributed nationally to elementary schools and bookstores through a grant from the National Center for Youth Issues.

The common denominator among the Medal of Honor recipients spotlighted in the book is that they all have ties to Tennessee.

Chattanooga is home of the Medal of Honor Heritage Center, downtown near the Tennessee Aquarium. The city was also home to some of the first Medal of Honor winners dating back to the American Civil War, when a group of Union soldiers undertook the Great Locomotive Chase, a military mission designed to disrupt Confederate supply lines.

"The Chattanooga connection [to the Medal of Honor] is so strong," Mines said.

Medal of Honor recipients featured in her book are:

> Arthur MacArthur Jr., father of Gen. Douglas MacArthur of World War II fame, was a Union soldier who represents the virtue of patriotism. As the Union forces charged up Missionary Ridge, MacArthur, then 18, spotted an injured flagman. "MacArthur grabs the flag, raises it high and shouts for the others to follow him," Mines said.

> Sgt. Alvin York of Fentress County, Tennessee, was selected to exemplify courage. York, one of the most decorated servicemen of World War I, led an attack on a German machine gun nest and, incredibly, captured 132 prisoners. "He originally applied to be a conscientious objector because of his strong religious beliefs," Mines said, but York came to believe "there are times when men of God stand up to fight against evil."

> Dr. Mary Walker was a Civil War-era surgeon, a rarity for a woman in the 19th century. She treated wounded men from the Battle of Chickamauga in North Georgia and also operated a hospital here. "She represents commitment in the book," Mines said. "She stayed true to what she believed in and wanted to accomplish."

> Ray Duke of Whitwell, Tennessee, who represents sacrifice in the book, was an Army master sergeant in the Korean War, who was wounded, captured and ultimately starved to death by North Korean forces. "He never broke," Mines said. "The records include the fact that there was grudging respect [from his captors] for someone of that character."

> Desmond Doss, a native of Lynchburg, Virgina, and the subject of the 2016 feature film "Hacksaw Ridge," was a WWII combat medic credited with saving at least 75 lives during the Battle of Okinawa. He is the only conscientious objector to receive the Medal of Honor and represents integrity in the book. Doss lived much of his life in nearby Rising Fawn, Georgia, and is buried in Chattanooga's National Cemetery. "So many people who had been brutal to him [for not carrying a gun] ended up owing their lives to him," Mines said.

> George Jordan of Williamson County, Tennessee, was a Black former slave who joined the U.S. Army's Buffalo Soldiers unit at age 19. He served in the Indian Wars, where he earned the medal of honor. Despite his service, Jordan, at one point in his life, was denied medical help from the military. "He served his nation for most of his adult life knowing his nation didn't love him as much as he loved them," Mines said.

Contact Mark Kennedy at mkennedy@timesfreepress.com.