Currently, the Congressional Medal of Honor is the highest military award in this country. However, the Medal was created in 1862; before that time America had already fought several wars, not the least of which was our struggle for liberty.
Originally when Memorial Day was created, it was to honor members of the service who had died during the Civil War; however after WWI it was expanded to include any military action or war. Which brings us to today’s history lesson; the first true American veterans and some of the heroes that you might not have heard about.
Before there was the Medal of Honor, there was a medal called the Badge of Military Merit; it was the highest military award in the country.
Daniel Bissell enlisted into the Continental Army in 1775, where he initially served as a fifer, in 1777 he was promoted to sergeant. In 1781, under direct orders from General Washington he posed as a deserter to gain information on the British – realizing that his position as just a deserter did not allow him close enough access to the British, he enlisted in the British Army where he served for 13 months. During that time, he memorized maps of enemy positions, each day knowing that if he were discovered he would be hanged as a spy. Sergeant Bissell made his way back to American lines after 13 months, where he arrested and held until General Washington verified his story.
Michael Healy was captain in the US Revenue Cutter Service, which was the predecessor to the current US Coast Guard. Healy was the commanding officer of the cutter Bear starting in 1886. During 1888, the Alaskan whaling fleet was anchored to ride out a storm; however the storm was much stronger than anticipated. Despite the waves breaking up four of the whaling vessels, under Healy’s command Bear was able to rescue over 160 otherwise doomed sailors.
Lieutenant Edward Preble was the commanding officer of the US Revenue Cutter Pickering, which during the Quasi-War with France was absorbed into the US Navy for the duration of the conflict, and was officially transfered to the Navy in 1780. In 1799, under the command of LT Preble, Pickering fought an engagement against a French privateer named L’Egypte Conquise. The French privateer outclassed Pickering in armament and had more than triple the crew of Pickering. After a 9-hour battle which is considered one of the finest examples of how to fight a smaller ship against a heavier, better armed enemy; the French privateer surrendered to Pickering.
There is no way I could possibly compile even a partial list of all of this country’s departed heroes who deserve mention – men and women whose names should not fade with history, but should be remembered by everyone as examples of courage, discipline, and love of country.