First Lieutenant Vernon Baker, a black U.S. Army soldier in the 92nd Infantry Division, who fought in Europe during World War II. Lt. Baker was personally responsible for the destruction of three machine gun nests, two observation points, two bunkers and a German communications network for which he was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross. For a more detailed account of his actions, see this WaPo article. Later, after a review of the policies of the time, his award was upgraded to the Medal of Honor, which was awarded by President Bill Clinton in 1997. Below is Lt. Baker's Medal of Honor citation:
For extraordinary heroism in action on 5 and 6 April 1945, near Viareggio, Italy. Then Second Lieutenant Baker demonstrated outstanding courage and leadership in destroying enemy installations, personnel and equipment during his company's attack against a strongly entrenched enemy in mountainous terrain. When his company was stopped by the concentration of fire from several machine gun emplacements, he crawled to one position and destroyed it, killing three Germans. Continuing forward, he attacked an enemy observation post and killed two occupants. With the aid of one of his men, Lieutenant Baker attacked two more machine gun nests, killing or wounding the four enemy soldiers occupying these positions. He then covered the evacuation of the wounded personnel of his company by occupying an exposed position and drawing the enemy's fire. On the following night Lieutenant Baker voluntarily led a battalion advance through enemy mine fields and heavy fire toward the division objective. Second Lieutenant Baker's fighting spirit and daring leadership were an inspiration to his men and exemplify the highest traditions of the Armed Forces.
"I'm not a hero. I'm just a soldier that did a good job. I think the real heroes are the men I left behind on that hill that day." - Lt. Baker
I told you Lt. Baker's story so that I could then tell you this story:
After a long bout with brain cancer, Lt. Baker died on July 13, 2010. at his Saint Maries, Idaho home. He left behind a wife, three children, one step-child and a grand-child. Like many of us, the Baker family is suffering from the effects of the current recession. The family is suffering so much so, that they are can not afford to his interment in Arlington Nation Cemetery. The people of his community have refused to let this stand. Businesses, strangers, the local congressman and the Post Falls National Guard are all chipping in to make sure that a brave American Hero's family can attend his funeral. To me, this makes them all heroes. It is sad that this great nation can not or will not bring a hero's family to Arlington to witness his interment and to say their last goodbyes. It is very heartening however that the American people will not allow such a travesty to occur, and a giving, even in these hard times to make sure that a great injustice will not occur. I salute and thank you all. It is actions such as this that help sustain my faith in the American people.
If you would like to help, checks made out to Heidy Baker can be mailed to the following address:
AmericanWest Bank Saint Maries Idaho
1500 Main Ave
Saint Maries, ID 83861
Also money can be wired, fees still apply, to:
Bank Name: AmericanWest Bank
Routing Number: 125107037
Account Number: 100120
On the instructions be note; "To be credited to Heidy Baker account. Contact Saint Maries Branch located at 1500 Main Ave., Saint Maries, ID 83861."
Please help if, and how, you can.