The Medal of Honor symbolizes the ideals of patriotism, courage, sacrifice, and integrity and is the highest award presented for military valor in action. Those recipients have shown bravery in combat, going above and beyond the call of duty, risking – and often sacrificing – their lives for the welfare of others.
First introduced for the Department of the Navy in 1861, the Medal of Honor would be created for the Department of the Army’s Medal of Honor in 1862. The Department of the Air Force, which originally used the same Medal as the Department of the Army, introduced their own Medal of Honor in 1965. Since its inception during the U.S. Civil War, more than 3500 recipients have been honored with the Medal of Honor.
This is the story of a Medal of Honor recipient.
I arrived in Lewisburg to pay my respects to a Medal of Honor recipient who was buried in the sacred hallowed grounds of the Lewisburg Cemetery. Entering the cemetery from South Seventh Street, I drove slowly, scanning the stones along the edge of the roadway. When I noticed the flags flapping lazily in the breeze I knew this was the grave of the man I had come to honor.
Pulling to the edge of the roadway, I got out of the vehicle and walked over to the decorated grave. The simple stone and plaque remembered one of Pennsylvania’s native sons who gave his life serving his country. His actions under fire – which cost him his life – would result in George H. Ramer posthumously receiving the Medal of Honor.
George Henry Ramer was born March 27, 1927, in Meyersdale, Somerset County. As a child, his family moved to Lewisburg, where he graduated in 1944. Upon graduating, Ramer enlisted in the US Navy and served until 1946. After being discharged, Ramer return to Lewisburg and enrolled at Bucknell University, where he graduated in 1950 with a degrees in history and political science.
While at Bucknell, Ramer enrolled in the Marine Corps Reserves and in 1950 was commissioned into the Reserves. On January 3, 1951, Ramer was called to active duty by his own request. He finished the basic course in April of 1951 as Second Lieutenant and went to Korea the following month.
Sadly, Ramer’s time in the Marines was short.
On September 12, 1951, Ramer was leading the Third Platoon of Company I, Third Battalion, Seventh Marines, First Marine Division to take an enemy-held hilltop at Heartbreak Ridge. Most of the men in the platoon were wounded by enemy fire, but Ramer continued to lead his men through the chaos and personally destroyed the enemy bunker
When the enemy made a counter-attack, Ramer ordered his men to withdraw as he single-handedly covered his platoon and the evacuation of three fatally wounded men. He was wounded a second time but held his ground, telling his men to seek shelter. Ramer continued to fight the enemy force until fatally wounded.
Ramer was returned to Lewisburg that December and laid to rest in Lewisburg Cemetery. On January 7, 1953, Ramer’s widow was presented with his Medal of Honor for Ramer’s bravery and sacrifice. In addition to the Medal of Honor, Ramer also received the Purple Heart, the Korean Service Medal with two bronze stars, and the United Nations Service Medal.
The citation for Ramer’s Medal of Honor reads: “The President of the United States of America, in the name of Congress, takes pride in presenting the Medal of Honor (Posthumously) to Second Lieutenant George Henry Ramer, United States Marine Corps Reserve, for conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty on 12 September 1951, as leader of the Third Platoon in Company I, Third Battalion, Seventh Marines, First Marine Division (Reinforced), in action against enemy aggressor forces in Korea. Ordered to attack and seize hostile positions atop a hill, vigorously defended by well-entrenched enemy forces delivering massed small-arms mortar, and machine gun fire, Second Lieutenant Ramer fearlessly led his men up the steep slopes and although he and the majority of his unit were wounded during the ascent, boldly continued to spearhead the assault. With the terrain becoming precipitous near the summit and the climb more perilous as the hostile forces added grenades to the devastating hail of fire, he staunchly carried the attack to the top, personally annihilated one enemy bunker with grenade and carbine fire and captured the objective with his remaining eight men. Unable to hold the position against an immediate, overwhelming hostile counterattack, he ordered his group to withdraw and single-handedly fought the enemy to furnish cover for his men and for the evacuation of three fatally wounded Marines. Severely wounded a second time, Second Lieutenant Ramer refused aid when his men returned to help him and, after ordering them to seek shelter, courageously manned his post until the hostile troops overran his position and he fell mortally wounded. His indomitable fighting spirit, inspiring leadership and unselfish concern for others in the face of death, reflect the highest credit upon Second Lieutenant Ramer and the United States Naval Service. He gallantly gave his life for his country.”
I finished paying my respects to the fallen hero while remembering his service and sacrifice. I left him to eternally slumber beneath the flags standing watch over his grave.