Alabama Medal of Honor recipient and patriots remembered fondly

Monday, July 11, 2016

Ola Lee Mize Patriots Park in Gadsden (Bernard Troncale/Alabama NewsCenter)


View More Pictures of Gadsden's Patriots Park Memorial

Editor's note: The City of Birmingham Alabama has recently designed and erected one of the finest memorials to a recipient of the Medal of Honor. We are still hopeful that the City of Stamford, CT will place the statue of  Medal of Honor recipient  Homer L. Wise in a place of honor in the renovated Veterans Park.


Medal of Honor Citation, Ola Lee Mize

Ola Lee Mize
Medal of Honor​
June 10-11,1953
M/Sgt. Mize, a member of Company K, distinguished himself by conspicuous gallantry and outstanding courage above and beyond the call of duty in action against the enemy. Company K was committed to the defense of "Outpost Harry", a strategically valuable position, when the enemy launched a heavy attack. Learning that a comrade on a friendly listening post had been wounded he moved through the intense barrage, accompanied by a medical aid man, and rescued the wounded soldier. On returning to the main position he established an effective defense system and inflicted heavy casualties against attacks from determined enemy assault forces which had penetrated into trenches within the outpost area. During his fearless actions he was blown down by artillery and grenade blasts 3 times but each time he dauntlessly returned to his position, tenaciously fighting and successfully repelling hostile attacks. When enemy onslaughts ceased he took his few men and moved from bunker to bunker, firing through apertures and throwing grenades at the foe, neutralizing their positions. When an enemy soldier stepped out behind a comrade, prepared to fire, M/Sgt. Mize killed him, saving the life of his fellow soldier. After rejoining the platoon, moving from man to man, distributing ammunition, and shouting words of encouragement he observed a friendly machine gun position overrun. He immediately fought his way to the position, killing 10 of the enemy and dispersing the remainder. Fighting back to the command post, and finding several friendly wounded there, he took a position to protect them. Later, securing a radio, he directed friendly artillery fire upon the attacking enemy's routes of approach. At dawn he helped regroup for a counterattack which successfully drove the enemy from the outpost. M/Sgt. Mize's valorous conduct and unflinching courage reflect lasting glory upon himself and uphold the noble traditions of the military service.

Ola Lee Mize Photo Courtesy of Home of Heroes.com 

May is a special month for Medal of Honor News.

Saturday, May 7, 2016


A time to remember those who served to defend our freedom.  Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Coast Guardsmen.

Too many of our military died on the battlefields.  We should never forget their service.  

Memorial Day 2016 is approaching.  It is the day we honor our great heroes, those who served on Omaha Beach, those who at  fought and died in the freezing cold of Korea  and those who perish in the jungles of Vietnam, in the cities and towns of Iraq and Afghanistan.  

We also take a moment to remember recipients of the Medal of Honor who died in 2015 and 2016.

Hector A. Cafferata, World War II;  Santiago J.Erevia, Vietnam; Tibor Rubin, Korea, George T. Sakato, World War II and Einar H. Ingman, Jr. Korea


The article below originally appeared in the Wall Street Journal​ on May 22, 2015 ​ and Medal of Honor News on May 30, 2015. 


Touch the Names of Those Who Never Came Home


By Jerry Cianciolo

World War II memorials-who notices them anymore They blend into the background like telephone poles.

Chances are your community has a tribute to local men and women who served but it’s
likely you’ve never stopped to visit. Those who fought the Axis powers are out of mind now. “ In three words I can sum up everything  I have learned about life,” said Robert Frost. “It goes on.”
Still, it’s unbefitting that as we pass their chiseled names we fail to acknowledge these patriots for even an instant-especially on Memorial Day 2015, the 70th year after the end of World War II. From high- school history, were all familiar with the vast number. More than 400,000 Americans were killed during the war. Another were maimed or wounded.

They came from nearly every city and town.  And they fell by the tens of thousands at Luzon, Normandy, Anzio, Guadalcanal and Okinawa.“Deeply regret to inform you that your son Sgt.John S-lost his life on March 5th 1943, as a result of aircraft accident. Letter follows. Please accept my profound sympathy.”

Mothers and fathers receiving a telegram like that felt they couldn’t go on-but they did.
The remains of many loved ones were never returned home. Instead they were laid to rest at cemeteries in Manila, Normandy, Luxembourg and elsewhere.

It wasn’t long after V-E and V-J Days in 1945 that thousands of tributes sprang –up in bronze plaques, streaming fountains and granite obelisks. But seven decades have passed since commemorations of these memorials and to most of us now their simply the flag-festooned backdrop for long parades and political speeches in late May and early July.

When the occasion calls for it, we solemnly remove our hats and pay homage to the “ultimate sacrifice” these country-men.  That is a hollow abstraction until put in everyday terms.
Many young combatants who, as the English poet Laurance Binyon wrote, “fell with their faces to the foes” never set foot on campus.  They never straighten a tie and headed to a first real job. They never slipped a ring on a sweetheart’s finger.They never swelled with hope turning the key to a starter home. They never nestled an infant against a bare chest.  They never roughhoused in living room with an exasperated wife looking on. They never tiptoed to layout Santa’s toys.  They  never dabbed a tear while walking their princess down the aisle. They never toasted their son’s promotion. They never rekindled their love as empty nesters.They never heard a new generation cry out, “I love you grand pa.” A lifetime of big and little moments never happened because of a bullet to the body one day in far-off land. For those who crumpled to the ground, the tapestry of life was left unknit. Early on after the war we bowed our heads on Thanksgiving and Christmas. Their loss was raw then. But as years have passed all that’s left are memorials know one notices-rolling credit we ignore as we go about our lives.

But on Memorial Day, we can make a different choice. A moment’s reflection is all it takes to realize that every name on your town’s monument was a real person. One who bicycled the same streets as you, who sleepily delivered the morning Gazette, who was kept after school for cutting up, who sneaked a smoke out back, in the dog days of summer.With just a little imagination, it’s easy to picture yourself as one of those fresh faced-youngsters only you’ve been blessed with a additional 15,000 or 20,000 mornings, afternoons and evenings of life, and a warehouse  of experiences they were denied.

It’s some consolation that a majestic memorial to those who fought the good fight now stands in Washington. But most of us don’t visit the capital often. There’s simpler, more personal way we can show our gratitude to those whose lives were cut short. On Memorial Day with your smart phone turned off-pay a visit to your local monument. Quietly stand before the honor roll of the dead, whisper a word of thanks, and gently rub your finger across their name. The touch would be comforting.

Jerry Cianciolo chief editor at Emerson & Church, Publishers in Medfield, Mass.
Reach him at jerrycianciolo@gmail.com. 
This article originally appeared in The Wall Street Journal on May 22, 2015.

Michael B. Anderson of Billings, Montana, writes in support of a true American Hero Medal of Honor Recipient Homer L. Wise

Wednesday, February 10, 2016


Letter to Mayor David Martin of Stamford, CT from Colonel (ret) Pat Simpson of Austin, Texas in support of including the statue of Medal of Honor recipient Homer L. Wise in the renovated Veterans Park Master Plan

Saturday, January 23, 2016

To the Honorable David Martin

Dear Sir,

We, Colonel (Retired) Pat Simpson and Mrs. Woodene Simpson, Austin, Texas, appeal to you concerning the uncertain future of the magnificent statue of Medal of Honor recipient, Master Sergeant Homer L. Wise. We notice on Page 23 of the Veterans Memorial Park, Stamford, Connecticut, Master Plan that the Plan does not include “relocate and reset” for Homer’s statue as it does for the other statues and monuments. To the contrary, the “remove and stockpile HW statue” clearly indicates intent to exclude the bronze statue of Homer Wise from replacement in a newly renovated Veterans Memorial Park. This statue was dedicated in Veterans Park less than three years ago, on May 26, 2013.

The word “stockpile” conjures an impression of “stash” or “trash” and creates great concern for those of us knowledgeable of the deeds, courage, and gallantry under fire of the soldiers who served and sacrificed much for freedom’s sake. Additionally, it brings to question the Visual Artists Rights Act included in Section 106A of Title 17 of the United States Code, Copyright Law of the United States. We do notice mention of the Homer Wise statue in the Parks and Recreation Commission Meeting Minutes of November 18, 2015, and December 16, 2015; but as of now, there is no formal statement in any Master Plan that Homer’s statue will remain in Veterans Park.  

Perhaps you and members of the Veterans Memorial Park Ad-Hoc Committee are not familiar with the Texas 36th Infantry Division and its glorious history, especially during WWII. The Division was the first United States Division to land on the European continent at Italy’s Salerno beach on September 9, 1943—Homer Wise was there! The Division battled through Italy, over treacherous and rocky mountains, in the icy cold of Winter, deep mud, and numerous other tribulations—Homer Wise was there! Troops of the 142nd Infantry Regiment, 36th Infantry Division, were the first Americans to enter Rome—Homer Wise was there!  Major General Fred L. Walker wrote the following in his book, From Texas to Rome:

While subject to hardships that have never before been exceeded by any troops anywhere, you drove the enemy from well-organized and stoutly-defended positions in the hill masses of Camino and Sammucro, from Maggiore, Mount Rotundo, and San Pietro. You punished him severely. [MG Fred L. Walker to his 36th Division, June 1944]
Further, in his address to his 36th Division soldiers prior to his return to the U.S., General Walker mentioned:

knee-deep and wheel-deep mud, foxhole-engulfing mud; insufficient winter equipment; rain and snow, cold and sleet; howitzer trails that couldn’t be dug in; one round fired and the guns buried themselves; trucks that bogged down in soupy ground; machine gun barrels that froze; shoes that wore out in one day on sharp rocks jutting up through the snow.
After Italy, as part of the Seventh U.S. Army, the Texas 36th Infantry Division then participated in France’s other D-Day—Operation Dragoon, August 15, 1944—Homer Wise was there! Serious battles and skirmishes took place for about two weeks as our forces reduced enemy strength and caused the German Army Group G to retreat. Allied forces chased the enemy north and east to the foothills of the Vosges Mountains by mid-September, where movement slowed dramatically, where troops endured another cold winter through heavily wooded, show-covered mountains—Homer Wise was there!  You know the outcome that most Americans now take for granted—VE Day, May 8, 1945.

Your Honor, I do have to mention that Homer Wise served under my father, at the time Lieutenant Colonel Everett Selden Simpson, Commander of 3rd Battalion, 142nd Infantry Regiment, 36th Infantry Division.  On many occasions, my father relied on Homer and trusted his exceptional ability to lead patrols and gather intelligence about the enemy.

Today, most Americans are ignorant of that history—the sacrifices, trials, and tribulations suffered by our U. S. GIs, their families, and the U.S. citizens on the “home-front.”  After seventy years, France and Italy celebrate annually their liberation by American soldiers. We witnessed such ceremony when we visited Remiremont, France, in September 2011.

As a Board member of the 36th Infantry Division National Museum Foundation and as the son of a WWII T-Patcher, my wife, Woodene, and I ask, please make certain that the statue of Homer L. Wise remains in Veterans Memorial Park to remind future generations of the PRICE of FREEDOM! Please do not diminish the significant history of the great wars, particularly WWII—the war that liberated Europe from the tyranny of Nazi Germany, the war that saved Asian countries from the imperialism of Japan, and the war that kept the United States of America FREE.

We would appreciate knowing that the statue of WWII Hero, Homer L. Wise, is an official part of the Master Plan for renovation of Veterans Memorial Park. And please do not consider this letter a lesson on WWII. The intent is to emphasize the amazing actions and successes of our great American soldiers and heroes.

Pat W. Simpson
Colonel, U.S. Army
Retired

Statue of adopted war hero to keep its home

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Michael Cummo / Hearst Connecticut Media

(As Published in the Stamford Advocate, Jan. 1, 2016)
by Angela Carella

HERE’S THE THING ...

Among the many hundreds of thousands of Americans who have fought in the nation’s wars, only 3,513 have been awarded the Medal of Honor, the highest U.S. military decoration.

Congress gives it to members of the armed forces for gallantry and bravery in combat, at the risk of life, above and beyond the call of duty.

Cities typically recognize their native Medal of Honor winners with monuments, and name important structures for them. Chicago, for example, named its busy airport after Butch O’Hare, the Navy’s first World War II flying ace.
Michael Cummo / Hearst Connecticut Media


Stamford's record of honoring its war heroes is spotty. A small downtown park is named for John Latham, awarded the Medal of Honor in 1918 for bravery during World War I.

For Homer Lee Wise, a World War II Medal of Honor recipient, Stamford dedicated a patch of grass behind the Ridgeway Shopping Center. You’d be hard-pressed to call it a park. Motorists speeding along the multilane thoroughfare that is Bedford Street likely never see it, and it’s not a spot where pedestrians linger.

Wise’s deeds during World War II are the stuff of movies. In June 1944 in Italy, his 142nd Regiment, 36th Infantry Division, was getting pummeled by highly trained German troops during the Battle of Magliano. It would end with Americans and the Allies driving the Germans from Italy.

The fighting was vicious. Wise, squad leader of Company L, was under cover when he spotted a wounded man in the line of fire. He ran out and carried the man to safety. When German gunners advanced on his men, Wise singlehandedly held them off with a grenade launcher. The Germans retreated, and Wise followed, firing at them with a submachine gun.

Fire then came from German soldiers a distance away. Wise, a good shot, walked through flying bullets and picked them off with an automatic rifle. An American tank emerged from the trees to help, but the fire was so heavy that the tank had to button up. The machine gun mounted on the tank was damaged, but Wise jumped on the turret, unjammed it and fired 750 rounds, clearing the way for his regiment to take Hill 163, their objective.

For bravery in other battles, Wise also was awarded the Silver Star, two Bronze Stars, the Purple Heart with two Oak Leaf Clusters and 10 additional medals.

But, in Stamford, most people never heard of him.

Jason Rearick / Hearst Connecticut Media
In 2008, a man who knew Wise set out to raise $95,000 to create a statue for him. Most of the money came from outside of Stamford. When it was time to install the statue in Veterans Memorial Park on Atlantic Street, some in the downtown opposed it.

Three years ago, a life-size bronze statue of Wise was installed in Veterans Park. It’s near St. John’s Church, where Wise married Madolyn DiSesa, and across from Old Town Hall, where he worked as an Army recruiter after the war.

However, Veterans Memorial Park is set for a renovation, and a line in the master plan for a new park is causing consternation about the future of the statue.

On pages 23 and 29, the master plan states, “Remove and stockpile HW statue.” Cost: $5,000.

“After everything it took to get the statue installed in Veterans Park, I am not sure what to make of ‘remove and stockpile,’ ” said James Vlasto, who organized the fundraising effort. “I have tried to educate people in Stamford about the Medal of Honor, but it’s been very difficult. The recipients are extraordinary human beings. When I talk to kids, I tell them how President Harry Truman, who was a captain in World War I, said he’d rather have a Medal of Honor than be president of the United States.”

But Rick Redniss, a member of the Veterans Memorial Park Ad Hoc Committee, a group of volunteers working on the redesign, said Wise’s statue will be included. It will not be “removed and stockpiled,” Redniss said.

“That is an unfortunate choice of words that appeared in the report,” said Redniss, a land-use consultant. It happened when Beta Group, the engineering firm hired to design the $8 million renovation, was asked to itemize costs, Redniss said.

“One item was to remove and stockpile the Wise statue, but that has to do with storing it during construction, not moth-balling it,” Redniss said. “I have never heard
— and I have chaired this committee for years — that the statue will not be in Veterans Park.”

Chris Munger, a member of the Stamford Veterans Council who also sits on the park committee, said the Wise statue will stay.

“Homer Wise, having the highest decoration, represents all medal winners from Stamford,” Munger said. “The mayor has said that what’s in the park now stays in the park. That includes the ‘doughboy’ statue representing World War I veterans, and the Lincoln statue. Lincoln was a veteran of the Indian wars and, as leader during the Civil War, is the epitome of a wartime president. When he was assassinated, he became a victim of that war.”

Two city employees on the park committee, Associate Planner Erin McKenna of the Land Use Bureau, and Parks and Facilities Manager Kevin Murray, also said the Wise statue will stay.

Redniss, who was part of the group that worked to create the Wise statue, acknowledged the effort has been challenged.

“I became concerned with how that process played out. There seemed to be not-universal positive feelings about that endeavor,” Redniss said.

When he was asked to help with the park renovation committee, he said, “I said I would be glad to, but it will have to be a broad-based group of people, so we don’t have a situation where people are at odds with each other. We have spent years building a coalition with many veterans represented.”

Vlasto said one reason for the opposition to honoring Wise was that he was not a Stamford native. Wise grew up in Louisiana, left home at 14 during the Great Depression to look for work, joined the Army and met a Stamford girl while at boot camp. Wise spent the rest of his days living with DiSesa and their son in Spring-dale. He died in 1974 of a complication from an old war wound. He was 57.

“He was not born a Stamford guy, but he certainly became one,” Vlasto said. “He returned to Louisiana only twice — once for a big parade they threw for him after he got the Medal of Honor.”

Stamford did not laud Wise, but “he loved Stamford,” Vlasto said. “He always said it was home.”

angela.carella@scni.com; 203-964-2296; stamford advocate.com/angelacarella


“He was not born a Stamford guy, but he certainly became one.”
James Vlasto


Editor's Note

The Homer L Wise Memorial Committee is waiting for the sponsors to include in the revised Master Plan language affirming that the Statue of Medal of Honor recipient Homer L. Wise will be in the renovated Veterans Park in Stamford CT where it now stands tall.

WE NEED YOUR HELP! ... Statue of Medal of Honor recipient headed to scrap heap

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Shocking news from Stamford CT.

For the last year the City of Stamford has proposed to spend $7 million of tax payers funds to renovate Veterans Memorial Park. Details were not made public until December 16. A local business district development organization headed by Sandra Goldstein, was appointed to head the project.

Memorial Park includes stone monuments with the names of Stamford Veterans who served and died during World War II, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War. It includes the bronze statue of Master Sergeant Homer L. Wise, recipient of the Medal of Honor, during World War II, one of the most decorated soldiers of the war and a resident of Stamford until his death in 1974. He was wounded three times by German snipers and mortar round which landed a few feet from the fox hole he was in.

The statue was dedicated on May 26, 2013, before one of the largest crowds to ever attend a military ceremony in Stamford. The keynote speaker was Paul W. Bucha, recipient of the Medal of Honor for heroism in Vietnam in 1968. The Master of Ceremonies was Morton Dean, former CBS and ABC news anchor and correspondent.

The statue was designated a Historic Landmark by the State of CT. The statue was paid for with private funds and is owned by the Homer L. Wise Memorial Committee, Inc.

It was announced on December 16, 2015, that the master plan for the park calls for the removal and stockpiling of the statue of Medal of Honor recipient master sergeant Homer L. Wise. (see pages 23 and 29) stockpiling means that this magnificent work of art honoring one of the most decorated soldiers of World War II is going to end up in the scrap heap. To be replaced with a memorial to Brian Bill a soldier killed in Afghanistan. Brian Bill was a very brave solider. Homer L. Wise was honored by the city of Stamford for the fact he was a Medal of Honor recipient. Further the monument with the names of those killed during World War II, Korean war and Vietnam all deserve special recognition and will not be honored beyond the name on the stone monument.

“As I have told the rest of these young men who have been here before me, I would much rather have that medal around my neck than to be President of the United States. It is the greatest honor that can come to a man. It is an honor that all of us strive for, but very few of us ever achieve.” President of the United States Harry S. Truman, October 12, 1945 after presenting 15 World War II heroes with the Medal of Honor.

Tell me what is their reason for destroying this statue of a Medal of Honor recipient.

Link to Master Plan to Renovate Veterans Park, Stamford CT and remove and destroy the bronze statue of Medal of Honor recipient Homer L. Wise.  See pages 23 and 29.  The writers of the plan deemed it unnecessary to identify Sgt. Wise with his name.  Instead they used initials HW.

Please Email (or Call: 203-977 4140 (M-F, 7:30am - 4:30pm) ) your OBJECTION to destroy the Homer L. Wise  statue to Mayor Martin at the City of Stamford.
(Email: dmartin@stamfordct.gov)

$25 MILLION AWARDED TO PORT ST. LUCIE. FLORIDA FOR VETERANS NURSING HOME NAMED AFTER MEDAL OF HONOR RECIPIENT ARDIE R. COPAS HERO OF VIETNAM WAR

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Washington, DC,  December 10, 2015, The Department of Veterans affairs announced today they have released $25 million to pay for a Veterans Nursing Home in Port St. Lucie, Florida.

The home will be named for Medal of Honor recipient  Ardie R. Copas, who was killed in action in Cambodia, on May 12, 1970.  He was born in Fort Pierce, Florida

According to Steve Murray, Director of Communications of the Florida Department of Veterans Affairs, “the home would be the first state veterans home to offer all private rooms. Spouses including those of the same sex, will be allowed to share rooms as long as both are military veterans and need services.”

President Obama, on March 18, 2014, awarded the Medal of Honor posthumously, at a ceremony at the White House

Medal of Honor Citation SPECIALIST FOURTH CLASS ARDIE R. COPAS




COPAS' DAUGHTER, SHYRELL JEAN COPAS , 
RECEIVES THE MEDAL OF HONOR 
FROM PRESIDENT OBAMA
ON MARCH 18, 2014, AT THE WHITE HOUSE





Specialist Four Ardie R. Copas distinguished himself by acts of gallantry and intrepidity above and beyond the call of duty while serving as a Machinegunner in Company C, 1st Battalion (Mechanized), 5th Infantry Regiment, 25th Infantry Division during combat operations against an armed enemy near Ph Romeas Hek, Cambodia on May 12, 1970. That morning, Specialist Four Copas' company was suddenly attacked by a large hostile force firing recoilless rifles, rocket-propelled grenades, and automatic weapons. As Specialist Four Copas began returning fire, his armored car was struck by an enemy recoilless round, knocking him to the ground and injuring four American Soldiers beside the vehicle. Ignoring his own wounds, Specialist Four Copas quickly remounted the burning vehicle and commenced firing his machinegun at the belligerents. Braving the hostile fire directed at him and the possible detonation of the mortar rounds inside the track, Specialist Four Copas maintained a heavy volume of suppressive fire on the foe while the wounded Americans were safely evacuated. Undaunted, Specialist Four Copas continued to place devastating volleys of fire upon the adversary until he was mortally wounded when another enemy round hit his vehicle. Specialist Four Copas' daring action resulted in the safe evacuation of his comrades. Specialist Four Copas' extraordinary heroism and selflessness at the cost of his own life, above and beyond the call of duty, are in keeping with the highest traditions of military service and reflect great credit upon himself, his unit and the United States Army.

 
Copyright 2011 The Homer L. Wise Memorial Committee, Inc.