Marking the 150th anniversary of the creation of the Medal of Honor, State Senator Patty Ritchie has joined with area historians to spotlight the 45 local military veterans who have received the nation’s top military decoration for valor.
Senator Ritchie’s “Hometown Heroes” exhibit features Medal of Honor recipients from Oswego, Jefferson and St. Lawrence counties, and will be on display at museums across the region over the next several weeks.
The exhibit kicked off with a reception Thursday at the Jefferson County Historical Society in Watertown that was attended by historians, veterans, representatives of Fort Drum and military history buffs.
“This exhibit honors not only our region’s rich military history, from the Civil War to the growth of Fort Drum, but recognizes the unique sacrifices of some of the USA’s greatest heroes, men and one woman from different walks of life who earned the enduring respect and admiration of a nation through their bravery, actions and service,” Senator Ritchie said. “It brings to light a history that many of us didn’t know, and should make us all proud of the role that individuals from our communities played in building this great nation.”
The exhibit includes brief biographies of 15 Medal of Honor recipients from the three counties, including:
Oswego Town’s Dr. Mary Walker — the only woman ever to receive the Medal of Honor;
Private Joseph Lonsway of Clayton, who swam across a river under heavy fire to secure a position for his comrades, and lead them to victory;
A pair of Oswego County brothers who each received the Medal of Honor;
Waddington Lt. John Rutherford, who talked the commander of a vastly superior Confederate force to surrender after shooting his horse, and
Sgt. Jared Monti, a 10th Mountain soldier who died in Afghanistan on his third attempt to rescue a wounded comrade.
Senator Ritchie plans to add to the exhibit in future months.
The Medal of Honor was commissioned by President Abraham Lincoln in 1862 to recognize soldiers who exhibited extraordinary valor in the war to reunite the union.
Fewer than 3,500 soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines have received the decoration in that war and all intervening conflicts and fully one-quarter of them have been New Yorkers — a fact that Senator Ritchie hopes to highlight through the exhibit, as well as her accompanying proposal to rename certain bridges and overpasses in the state for these heroes.
“As New Yorkers, we can all be proud of the contributions of the men and women of our state to secure freedom and liberty throughout the world, including those who received the Medal of Honor, those who put on our nation’s uniform in all conflicts, and those who continue to serve today,” Senator Ritchie said. “We can be especially proud of those who called this region home, and who stood to defend a way of life that we all enjoy today.”
The “Hometown Heroes” exhibit is currently on display at the Jefferson County Historical Society in Watertown, as well as the St. Lawrence County Historical Association at Silas Wright House through Sept. 15.
It can also be seen at the St. Lawrence Power and Equipment Museum during next weekend’s Old Fashioned Harvest Days in Madrid, and will be on display from Sept. 15 to Oct. 15 at the Halfshire Historical Society Museum in Richland, Oswego County.
The exhibit can also be seen online at Senator Ritchie’s website, www.ritchie.nysenate.gov, and at http://www.scribd.com/doc/100532264/HONORING-OUR-HOMETOWN-HEROES-Senator-Patty-Ritchie-s-Medal-of-Honor-Heroes-Highway-Project