The stage is set for America to meet a long-overdue national obligation now that Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel has recommended New Yorker Henry Johnson for the Medal of Honor.
Ninety-six years ago, during World War I, Johnson almost single-handedly repelled an assault by as many as 24 German soldiers on his post in France. He fought with rifle, knife and bare fists, suffering grievous injury while saving the life of his trenchmate.
The U.S. refused to recognize Johnson’s valor. The military denied him both the Purple Heart and a disability pension, despite his loss of a shinbone and most of the bones in one foot.
All because Henry Johnson of Albany was black.
Hagel endorsed Johnson for the nation’s highest accolade at the urging of Sen. Chuck Schumer, who has pressed the issue for 15 years and who two years ago submitted voluminous documentation of Johnson’s heroism.
That record met the Pentagon’s high standards of proof, satisfying Hagel, and before him U.S. Army Secretary John McHugh, that Johnson’s incredible exploits were, beyond all doubt, true.