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    Sailors, veterans recognize one of their own; Ceremony honors Medal of Honor recipient

    Kilmer Memorial Ceremony

    Photo By Gary J Ward | SAN ANTONIO (Aug. 15, 2017) John Rodriguez, a Marine Corps veteran, salutes as the...... read more read more



    Story by Larry Coffey 

    Navy Medicine Education, Training and Logistics Command

    By Larry Coffey, NMETC PAO

    SAN ANTONIO – Sailors, military veterans and San Antonians braved scorching South Texas temperatures Aug. 15 to participate in a graveside memorial service honoring Hospitalman John E. “Jackie” Kilmer, who was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor on June 18, 1953.

    Chief Petty Officers (CPOs), CPO selectees, and officer and enlisted Sailors from Navy commands across Joint Base San Antonio (JBSA) were among more than 100 who honored Kilmer, said John Rodriguez, a Marine Corps veteran who has coordinated the annual ceremony for 12 years.

    “We had a beautiful ceremony, but it was hot – about 100 degrees with a heat index of over 103!” Rodriguez said, adding that he leaned heavily on support given by the 2017 CPO selectees.

    “The Navy’s participation was the key element,” he said. “The chief selects did an outstanding job helping me pull this off this year. It was the most elaborate and professional event honoring John Kilmer that I’ve witnessed in my 12 years of doing this.”

    Hospital Corpsman 1st Class Melissa Ramirez, a Hospital Corps “A” School instructor and Navy Medicine Training Support Center (NMTSC) CPO select, worked closely with Rodriguez, and San Antonio CPOs and CPO selectees to coordinate and execute the event.

    “The ceremony was well done,” said Ramirez, who teaches at the Medical Education and Training Campus (METC) on board JBSA Fort Sam Houston. “We came together as a team – Mr. John Rodriguez from the VFW (Veterans of Foreign War), Retired Master Chief Don Mason, the area Navy Chief’s Mess and the CPO selectees. We worked together to provide an opportunity for the community, the military and the veterans to gather and remember one of our nation’s heroes. I think it’s important to remember the sacrifices of all our fallen brothers and sisters, so they will not be forgotten.”

    The annual ceremony was highlighted with the presentation of a Legion of Valor membership certificate to Ray Brown, Kilmer’s cousin, who accepted the certificate on behalf of the family. The certificate was presented by Retired Master Chief Hospital Corpsman Don Mason, a Navy Cross recipient, and past national commander and present San Antonio chapter commander of the Legion of Valor.

    “The Legion of Valor is the most prestigious, unique, and oldest veterans’ organization in existence,” Mason said. “There are only 600 of us nationwide who are living today. To be a member of this organization, one must have our nation's highest or second highest combat decoration for valor – the Medal of Honor, the Army Distinguished Service Cross, the Navy Cross, or the Air Force Cross. Hospitalman Kilmer became a member of the Legion of Valor by virtue of being awarded the Medal of Honor.”

    The Legion of Valor was founded as the Medal of Honor Legion in 1890 by Medal of Honor recipients from the Civil War and the Indian Wars. Army Distinguished Service Cross recipients were invited to join in 1918, and Navy Cross recipients in 1933 when the name changed to the Army and Navy Legion of Valor. It was chartered and incorporated by congress in 1955.

    “In 1960, when the Air Force created their Medal of Honor and Air Force Cross, they were invited to join, and the name of the organization became the Legion of Valor of the United States of America Incorporated,” Mason said.

    Kilmer’s four-plus years of service began when he quit high school at 17 to enlist in in the Navy from Houston, Texas. He graduated from Hospital Corps School in San Diego, California, in April 1948 and was assigned to Hospital Ship USS Repose (AH-16) when war broke out in Korea. His enlistment term expired in August 1951, but he soon rejoined the Navy.

    After running afoul of a superior, Kilmer chose to be transferred to the Fleet Marine Force. On August 12, 1952, Kilmer took part in the attack on Bunker Hill, caring for the wounded. He was mortally wounded after using his body to shield another man from enemy fire and died the next day.

    The ceremony included a reading of Kilmer’s bio, and an audio recording of the original 1953 Medal of Honor presentation by the Secretary of the Navy to Kilmer’s mother was played and included the original reading of the Medal of Honor citation. Brown said he will deliver the recording to Kilmer’s brother, whose age and health prevented him from attending the ceremony.

    Other highlights included a wreath presentation at Kilmer’s grave site, reading of Kilmer’s bio, presentation of colors, and reciting of the Hospital Corpsman pledge. Military honors were rendered by VFW members, and “Taps” was played by Hospital Corpsman 1st Class Aldrin Augustus, a Defense Health Agency CPO select.

    “It is important that we continue to honor and remember this young Navy corpsmen who gave his life so others could live,” Rodriguez said. “He died two days before his 20th birthday. I cannot think of a nobler act of love. I want to make sure that we never forget the sacrifice of this young corpsman.”



    Date Taken: 08.15.2017
    Date Posted: 08.18.2017 13:23
    Story ID: 245271
    Location: SAN ANTONIO, TX, US 

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