The first Medal of Honor, our nation’s highest military award for valor in action against an enemy force, was presented on March 25, 1863. The United States Congress designated March 25 of each year as the National Medal of Honor Day. Governor Mark Dayton also will proclaim March 25 as Medal of Honor Day in the State of Minnesota.
Since the Civil War, brave men and women from the state of Minnesota have answered the call to defend and protect the freedoms we hold dear and several have gone beyond this call to duty, risking injury and loss of life. Medal of Honor recipients have distinguished themselves from others at the risk of their own life above and beyond the call of duty by courage and intrepidity. According to the Congressional Medal of Honor Society there have been 3,463 recipients of the Medal of Honor.
A plaque located in the Court of Honor at the Minnesota State Capitol Grounds serves as a permanent marker to honor the 56 Medal of Honor recipients associated with the State of Minnesota who have shown great bravery in defense of our country.
Presently there are three variations of the Medal of Honor: the Navy Medal of Honor, the Army Medal of Honor and the Air Force Medal of Honor.
Mike Colalillo, the last living Medal of Honor recipient living in Minnesota, passed away in December of 2011 at 86 years old. Leo Thorness, born in Minnesota is the only other living Medal of Honor recipient with Minnesota ties – he resides in Alabama. Although there are no longer any living Medal of Honor recipients in Minnesota, it is still important for us to recognize, remember, and honor each and every one of them for their valor and bravery. The history of these brave service members lives on and is never forgotten. Extraordinary acts by ordinary people truly do demonstrate the difference one person can make.
On March 18, 2014 President Obama belatedly awarded 24 Army Veterans who served during World War II, the Korean War and the Vietnam War with the Medal of Honor for their valor. In 2002 Congress called for a review of Jewish American and Hispanic American Veterans war records from WWII, the Korean War and the Vietnam War, to ensure those deserving the Medal of Honor were not denied because of prejudice. Each of the 24 recipients was previously awarded the nation’s second highest military award: the Distinguished Service Cross. Read more about this in the White House's press release.