The Congressional Medal of Honor is the highest award given to an American soldier who displayed great courage and selflessness in battle. The award is often presented by the president of the United States, according to the Congressional Medal of Honor Society.
The first medal was given out in 1861, but it wasn’t until 1963 that Congress established a set of guidelines.
The guidlines stipulate that the medal be given to a soldier who showed heroism “while engaged in an action against an enemy force of the United States, while engaged in military operations involving conflict with an opposing foreign force, or while serving with friendly forces engaged in armed conflict against an opposing armed force in which the United States is not,” according to the society.
At least 18 of the more than 3,000 recipients have connections to Long Island. Other than the names provided on this list, some, like Sgt. William Laing, were born on Long Island but raised elsewhere. Others, like U.S. Navy Cox. Claus Kristian Clausen, moved to Long Island after finishing their service. Many more recipients are buried on Long Island.
★Michael P. Murphy: Gave life protecting soldiers from Taliban
AWARDED 2007. Navy Lt. Michael Murphy, of Patchogue, died June 28, 2005, in an enemy ambush in the Afghan mountains, during the war in Afghanistan. He was 29. According to the Congressional Medal of Honor Society, Murphy and three fellow soldiers were on a mission to secretly track a Taliban leader’s movements when they were spotted by Taliban sympathizers. The sympathizers tipped off the Taliban about the soldiers’ location, and Murphy’s team was ambushed by enemy fighters. Murphy continued to fight off the enemies despite suffering numerous wounds, encouraging his fellow soldiers to do the same. When he couldn’t get a signal to radio for help from behind cover, Murphy crawled out into the open to provide the team’s location and the number of fighters attacking them, then immediately returned to fighting the enemy. “In his final act of bravery, he continued to engage the enemy until he was mortally wounded, gallantly giving his life for his country and for the cause of freedom,” according to the Congressional Medal of Honor Society. Only one soldier, Marcus Luttrell, made it out alive. In his 2007 book, “Lone Survivor,” Luttrell wrote that Murphy’s actions were “an act of supreme valor. . . . If they ever build a memorial to him as high as the Empire State Building, it won’t be high enough for me.” Murphy was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor on Oct. 22, 2007, by President George W. Bush. Murphy’s parents, Daniel and Maureen Murphy, of Patchogue, accepted the medal along with Murphy’s brother, John, at the White House. More than three dozen of Murphy’s friends and relatives accompanied Murphy’s parents to Washington to await the award.
★Theodore Roosevelt: Led assault in Cuba under heavy fire
AWARDED 2001. Before Theodore Roosevelt was the 26th president of the United States, he served as the assistant secretary of the Navy and formed the first volunteer cavalry regiment in the U.S. Army, known as the Rough Riders. A few months into the Spanish-American War, on July 1, 1898, Lt. Col. Roosevelt led an assault up San Juan Hill in Cuba, encouraging his men to continue the desperate charge while under heavy fire. “[Roosevelt] was the first to reach the enemy trenches, where he quickly killed one of the enemy with his pistol, allowing his men to continue the assault,” according to the Congressional Medal of Honor Society. It would take more than a century before Roosevelt was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions in the battle. On Jan. 1, 2001, President Bill Clinton presented members of the Roosevelt family with the Medal of Honor for their ancestor’s courageous and selfless leadership at the Battle of San Juan Hill, which “led to the Spanish surrender and opened the era of America as a global power,” Clinton said during the ceremony. According to the National Park Service, Roosevelt moved to his Sagamore Hill home in Cove Neck in 1885, living there until his death in 1919. Roosevelt spent time working at the estate, also known as the “summer White House” during his presidency.
★George Washington Brush: Saved hundreds from stranded boat
AWARDED 1987. Army Lt. George Washington Brush was born on Oct. 4, 1842. He was born and raised in West Hills, Huntington, according to the town’s website. Brush received his Medal of Honor for commanding a boat crew in the rescue of soldiers from the stranded steamer known as the “Boston” during a Civil War battle at Ashepoo River, South Carolina in 1864, according to the town. The soldiers were sent to burn the railroad trestle across the marsh, but their steamboat got suck when it hit an oyster bed, according to accounts of the battle from Brush’s own writing and the book “Deeds of Valor: How America’s Civil War Heroes Won the Medal of Honor” by Oscar Frederick Keydel. As Confederate soldiers emerged and fired upon the Boston, Brush and four privates in a gunboat ferried 30 people per trip to a safe shore until all 400 soldiers were rescued. Brush, along with the four privates, received a Medal of Honor for helping their fellow soldiers in need. According to the Town of Huntington, Brush went on to study dentistry after the war. “After a few years as a dentist, he attended the Long Island College Hospital [closed in 2013], the Town of Huntington said. He died on Nov. 16, 1927. He was 85. Brush was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor in 1987, according to a 2010 Newsday article.
★Anthony Casamento: Held his ground despite severe injuries
AWARDED 1980. U.S. Marine Corps Cpl. Anthony Casamento was born on Nov. 16, 1920, in Brooklyn. Casamento was raised in West Islip, according to former New York State Sen. Owen Johnson’s website. Johnson, who represented Casamento’s district, inducted him into New York State Senate’s Veterans Hall of Fame in 2005. Casamento was part of the Marine assault on Guadalcanal in August 1942 during World War II, according to his entry on the website. On Nov. 1, 1942, in a battle in the British Solomon Islands, Casamento served as a leader of a machine gun section, according to the Congressional Medal of Honor Society. “He positioned his section to provide covering fire for two flanking units and to provide direct support for the main force of his company which was behind him,” the society said. All members of Casamento’s section were either killed or severely wounded during this battle. Despite suffering severe injuries, he continued providing supporting fire using the unit’s machine gun. “He continued to man his weapon and repeatedly repulsed multiple assaults by the enemy forces, thereby protecting the flanks of the adjoining companies and holding his position until the arrival of his main attacking force,” according to the society. Casamento was awarded the Medal of Honor by President Jimmy Carter in 1980. Casamento died on July 18, 1987, at the Northport Veterans Affairs Medical Center. He was 66.
★George C. Lang: Paralyzed while under heavy fire in Vietnam
AWARDED 1971. Army Spc. 4th Class George C. Lang was born on April 20, 1947, in Flushing, according to the Congressional Medal of Honor Society. Lang grew up in Hicksville and enlisted in the Army after graduating from Hicksville High School, according to a 2005 Newsday article. On Feb. 22, 1969, during the Vietnam War, while serving as a squad leader on an offensive mission to test the enemy’s strength, Lang’s squad found itself under intense fire from an enemy bunker complex, according to the society. Lang put himself in the line of fire while advancing on multiple emplacements from which enemy fire was coming, eventually destroying them with hand grenades and rifle fire. Lang then spotted a large cache of enemy ammunition, and attempted to maneuver his squad to it. However, they were fired upon by a third enemy bunker. Lang destroyed it with his last grenades. When he returned to the arms cache, the squad again came under heavy fire, this time by rocket and automatic weapons. Six squad members were killed or injured. Lang was hit and injured by a rocket, but continued directing his men until his evacuation was ordered, despite his protests. He was left paralyzed from the waist down as a result of being hit in the spine by shrapnel from the rocket, according to a 1993 Newsday article. Lang received the Medal of Honor in 1971 from President Richard Nixon, according to a 2005 Newsday article. Lang would spend the remainder of his life living in Seaford, where he became a celebrated Medal of Honor historian. Lang died from cancer on March 16, 2005. He was 57.
★Garfield M. Langhorn: Threw himself on grenade to save soldiers
AWARDED 1970. Army Pfc. Garfield M. Langhorn was born on Sept. 10, 1948, in Cumberland, Virginia. Langhorn graduated from Riverhead High School in 1967, according to a 2010 Newsday article. On Jan. 15, 1969, during the Vietnam War, in the Pleiku province of the Republic of Vietnam, Langhorn’s platoon was sent to a landing zone to try to rescue two helicopter pilots who were shot down, according to the Congressional Medal of Honor Society. “[Langhorn] provided radio coordination with the command-and-control aircraft overhead while the troops hacked their way through the dense undergrowth to the wreckage, where both pilots were found dead,” the Society said. The squad was preparing to take the bodies back with them to a pickup site. However, North Vietnamese soldiers in camouflaged bunkers surrounded the squad. Langhorn radioed for help from the nearby gunships, which bombarded fire upon the enemy. Langhorn fled to cover, where he continued operating the radio and provided covering fire for the wounded. When it became too dark for the gunships to accurately fire, the enemy soldiers began pushing back. A hand grenade landed near Langhorn and some wounded soldiers. “Choosing to protect these wounded, he unhesitatingly threw himself on the grenade, scooped it beneath his body and absorbed the blast,” the society said. Langhorn was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor in 1970 by President Richard Nixon, according to a 2009 Newsday article. He was 20.
★John Kedenburg: Led escape, evacuation from ambush
AWARDED 1970. Army Spc. 5th Class John Kedenburg was born on July 31, 1946, according to the Congressional Medal of Honor Society. Kedenburg grew up in Baldwin, according to a 2007 Newsday article. On June 13, 1968, during the Vietnam War, Kedenburg was acting as an adviser to a team of South Vietnamese soldiers conducting counterguerrilla operations in enemy territories when the team was ambushed and encircled by enemy troopers, according to the society. Kedenburg immediately took command of the South Vietnamese team, leading them to break out of the encirclement, according to the society. The group then attempted to reach a helicopter extraction point. “Sp5c. Kedenburg conducted a gallant rear guard fight against the pursuing enemy and called for tactical air support and rescue helicopters,” the society said. “His withering fire against the enemy permitted the team to reach a preselected landing zone with the loss of only one man, who was unaccounted for.” He directed the air strikes from the ground when air support arrived, forcing the enemy to stop firing in order to escape from the helicopters. This allowed for the helicopters to hover over the landing zone and drop slings to pick up the soldiers. Kedenburg and the remaining three South Vietnamese soldiers were preparing to strap themselves into the last helicopter’s sling when the previously unaccounted for soldier appeared. Kedenburg immediately gave up his place for that soldier and directed the helicopter to take off without him, as there was no longer any room. Kedenburg single-handedly eliminated six enemy soldiers before being killed. He was 22. He was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor on April 23, 1970, according to the Military Times Hall of Valor.
★Stephen Karopczyc: Ran through enemy fire to protect platoon
AWARDED 1969. Army 1st Lt. Stephen Karopczyc was born on March 5, 1944, according to the Congressional Medal of Honor Society. Karopczyc was raised in Bethpage, according to a 2013 Newsday article. On March 12, 1967, during the Vietnam War, in the Kontum Province in Vietnam, Karopczyc led his platoon on a flanking maneuver against an enemy force that outmanned them. A small enemy unit engaged his soldiers in front, preventing his troops from quickly pushing through to the main enemy force so they could aid Allied forces. Karopczyc sprinted through enemy fire and into the open. He tossed colored smoke grenades and used bursts of fire from his own weapon to identify the enemies for attack by helicopter gunships. After several hours of being attacked, an enemy hand grenade was tossed in the direction of Karopczyc and two wounded soldiers. “Although his position protected him, Karopczyc] leaped up to cover the deadly grenade with a steel helmet,” the Society said. While he made sure nobody else was harmed, the explosion badly injured Karopczyc and he died two hours later. Karopczyc, who was 23, was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions on Jan. 24, 1969, according to the Military Times Hall of Valor.
★Charles W. Shea: Risked life to take on enemy machine gunners
AWARDED 1945. U.S. Army 2nd Lt. Charles Shea was born in 1921, in New York City. He moved to Plainview in 1955, according to a 1994 Newsday article. He lived there until his death in 1994 at age 72. Shea earned the Medal of Honor on Jan. 12, 1945, for bravely risking his life to take out multiple enemy machine gunners during World War II, according to the Congressional Medal of Honor Society. On May 12, 1944, around Mount Damiano, Italy, Shea, then a sergeant, and his men were attempting to advance on a hill being occupied by enemy soldiers, according to the society. Suddenly, three machine guns opened fire on the soldiers, killing several of them and halting the advance. Shea kept moving forward, with the goal of taking down the machine gun nests so the push could resume, but the guns’ rapid fire pinned him down. Still, Shea continued his advance, crept up on the first nest and ambushed the enemy soldiers, forcing four soldiers to surrender. “He then crawled to the second machine gun position, and after a short fire fight, forced two more German soldiers to surrender,” the Society said. The final machine gun nest fired at Shea, who managed to avoid getting hit. He advanced on the nest and was able to shoot and kill all three machine gunners before they could hit him.
★Bernard Ray: Gave life to blast path through barrier
AWARDED 1945. U.S. Army 1st Lt. Bernard James Ray was born in 1921, in Brooklyn. Ray, a former Boy Scout, grew up in Baldwin, and graduated from Baldwin High School, according to a 2008 Newsday article. According to the Congressional Medal of Honor Society, on Nov. 17, 1944, during World War II, Ray, 23, was leading a platoon through the Hurtgen Forest, near Schevenhutte, Germany, when they were met with heavy resistance. Ray’s company’s advance was halted by a barbed wire barrier, resulting in heavy casualties. He reorganized his men and revealed his intention to blow a path through the barrier. Ray put explosive caps in his pockets, retrieved multiple Bangalore torpedoes and wrapped a highly explosive primer cord around himself. Under direct fire, Ray ran toward the wire barrier. As he prepared his demolition charge, mortar shells were being aimed at him. He was preparing to connect the torpedo he placed under the wire to a charge when he was badly wounded by a bursting mortar shell. “With the primer cord still wound about his body and the explosive caps in his pocket, he completed a hasty wiring system and unhesitatingly thrust down on the handle of the charger, destroying himself with the wire barricade in the resulting blast,” the society wrote. Ray was posthumously awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor on Dec. 8, 1945.
★Theodore Roosevelt Jr.: Bravery on front lines at Normandy
AWARDED 1944. After the Army twice denied his requests to take part in D-Day during World War II, Brigadier General Theodore Roosevelt Jr.’s written request was reluctantly accepted by Maj. Gen. Raymond Barton, according to the Congressional Medal of Honor Society. On June 6, 1944, Roosevelt was part of the first wave of forces during the Invasion of Normandy. His bravery at the front of the assault inspired fellow soldiers. “He repeatedly led groups from the beach over the seawall and established them inland,” according to the society. Through Roosevelt’s leadership, the assault troops reduced the amount of enemy strong points and quickly moved inland with few casualties. Roosevelt died on July 12, 1944, after suffering a heart attack. He was 56. Unbeknownst to Roosevelt, on the day of his death he was selected to be promoted to the two-star rank of major general. “Roosevelt never knew of the division command assignment sitting on [General Dwight] Eisenhower’s desk, nor did he know of the Medal of Honor that would be awarded for his valor on Utah Beach,” according to “The Guns at Last Light: The War in Western Europe” by Rick Atkinson. He was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor on Sep. 28, 1944. Roosevelt was born and raised in his father’s Sagamore Hill home in Cove Neck.
★Michael Valente: Braved gunfire to capture enemy soldiers in WWI
AWARDED 1929. U.S. Army Pvt. Michael Valente, who was born on Feb. 5, 1895, in Cassino, Italy, earned the Medal of Honor for his actions against the Hindenburg line east of Ronssoy, France, on Sep. 29, 1918, during World War I, according to the Congressional Medal of Honor Society. When enemy machine gun fire halted his troop’s progress, Valente volunteered to advance and, with another soldier, took out two enemy nests and jumped directly into the enemy trench to take out five German soldiers and capture 21 more. “With utter disregard of his own personal danger, accompanied by another soldier, Pvt. Valente rushed forward through an intense machine gun fire directly upon the enemy nest,” the society said. Valente would be sent back to the rear later in the battle after getting wounded. Valente was awarded the Medal of Honor on Dec. 31, 1929. After leaving the Army, Valente became a builder and real estate agent in Long Beach, according to a 2009 Newsday article. He died in 1976 at age 80.
★Daniel Daly: Recognized for both Boxer Rebellion and Haiti occupation
AWARDED 1901, 1915. Gunnery Sgt. Daniel Daly of the U.S. Marine Corps was born and raised in Glen Cove, according to a 2003 Newsday article. Daly received his first Medal of Honor for his actions during the Boxer Rebellion in China in 1900. According to a 2000 Leatherneck Magazine article by J. Michael Miller, Daly was part of a group of Marines stationed on the Tartar Wall. According to Miller, on July 15, 1900, Daly, accompanied by Captain Newt Hall, advanced 200 yards to the next bastion in order to identify the Chinese skirmish line. Daly told Hall to go back and get the rest of their allied soldiers while he stayed behind at the bastion. Hall obeyed, leaving Daly alone in hostile territory, as stray shots were constantly fired upon him. He was awarded the Medal of Honor on July 19, 1901, for “extraordinary heroism … in the presence of the enemy,” according to the Military Times Hall of Valor. According to the Congressional Medal of Honor Society, Daly earned his second Medal of Honor during the 1915 occupation of Haiti, when his unit detached after dark and came upon enemy fire. “The marine detachment fought its way forward to a good position, which it maintained during the night.” As day broke, the Marines divided into three squads and each advanced in its own direction, catching the enemy by surprise and scattering their troops. He received his second Medal of Honor in 1915, according to a 2010 Newsday article. According to the United States Marine Corps History Division, Daly died on April 28, 1937, at 63 years old.
★John H. Starkins: Union fighter showed bravery during Civil War
AWARDED 1896. Army Sgt. John H. Starkins was born in Great Neck and fought for the Union Army during the Civil War. Starkins received the Medal of Honor for his actions at Campbell Station, Tennessee, on Nov. 16, 1863, according to a 1993 Newsday article. Starkins “brought off his piece without losing a man,” the Congressional Medal of Honor Society said. It’s speculated that this likely means he retrieved a piece of ammunition off the field, according to a 1993 Newsday article. Starkins received the Medal of Honor in 1896, according to a 2010 Newsday article. Starkins died on April 4, 1897. He was 56.
★Joachim Pease: Seaman manned cannon as Confederate ship attacked
AWARDED 1864. U.S. Navy Seaman Joachim Pease was an African-American born in 1842 on Long Island, according to the Military Times Hall of Valor. During the Civil War, he served as a seaman on the U.S.S. Kearsarge when it battled the Confederate ship Alabama off Cherbourg, France, on June 19, 1864, according to the Congressional Medal of Honor Society. Pease helped contribute in the destruction of the Alabama. Pease was in charge of one of the cannons during the battle, according to a 1998 Newsday article. At one point, a Confederate shell landed near him, killing or injuring several people around him. “But Pease kept loading and reloading the cannon,” the Newsday article said. He received the Medal of Honor in 1864. “Pease exhibited marked coolness and good conduct and was highly recommended by the divisional officer for gallantry under fire,” the Society said. The date of Pease’s death and whether he survived the war is unknown.