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    36th Infantry Division Honors Oldest Medal of Honor Recipient



    Story by Staff Sgt. Elizabeth Pena 

    Texas Army National Guard (Texas Military Forces)

    CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. -- Key leaders from the Texas Military Department paid their final respects to 36th Infantry Division's Tech. Sgt. Charles H. Coolidge, 99, one of the nation's most celebrated Medal of Honor recipients on April 16, 2021, during his memorial services at the First Presbyterian Church - Chattanooga.

    "TSgt Coolidge's service is an integral part of Texas military history," said Texas Army National Guard Col. Jose Rivera, Commander of the 72nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 36th Infantry Division. "A son of Tennessee was drafted into service and was assigned to the 141st Infantry Regiment. Today that regiment still serves Texas and the Nation as 1st and 3d Battalions, 141st Infantry of the 72d Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 36th Infantry Division."

    Born in 1921 in Signal Mountain, Tenn., Coolidge served with the Army's 36th ID, the first American division to invade Europe during WWII. Before his passing, Coolidge was the oldest living Medal of Honor recipient, which he earned after his group held off numerous enemy infantrymen, plus two tanks using grenades.

    "With the passing of TSgt Coolidge, there are only 68 living Medal of Honor recipients from any war. All wars," said Keith A. Hardison, Executive Director of the Charles H. Coolidge National Medal of Honor Heritage Center. "The time was just a few years ago when that number was 300-400. There's that loss in general for the country, but for us, here at the center, this community, this state, the state of Texas, we're losing a person who was that bonafide, genuine American hero that served as an inspiration to hundreds and thousands of people."

    During the funeral service, his oldest son, U.S. Air Force Lt. Gen. (Retired) Charles Coolidge Jr., presented the eulogy and reflected on his most significant memories of his father.

    "We all are aware of the fact that dad was a WWII veteran and Medal of Honor recipient,” said Coolidge Jr. “Those of us who grew with him heard the stories and read the citation. However, before I was old enough to appreciate what the Medal of Honor was, he was a role model for me, my two brothers, and many others.”

    Coolidge returned home from the war in 1945 and began working at his family's printing business while raising a family. He married his wife, the late Frances Seepe Coolidge, and had three sons.

    Although Coolidge had survived some of the most challenging days on the battlefield, his battles were not over. In 1996, he was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, a disease that deterirates the brain and nervous system and can lead to paralysis. The perseverance, honor, and faith he developed on the battlefield helped him combat his illness through the latter years of life.

    "Today is symbolic because TSgt Charles Coolidge was a giant among men and up until the 6th of April he was the oldest surviving Medal of Honor recipient of WWII and the only surviving recipient of the European theater," said Rivera. "We not only laid to rest the patriarch of an amazing family with a long history of service to country and community, but we also laid to rest a hero and key figure in the rich history of the 36th Infantry Division."

    The Coolidge family personally asked the 36th ID to be part of the celebration of Coolidge's life and legacy, by presenting a memorial flag to the family. Rivera, the present day commander of the brigade in which Coolidge served, presented the U.S. flag to his son, Lt Gen (R) Coolidge, during the burial at the National Cemetery of Chattanooga.

    "I would like to thank the Coolidge family for granting us [the 36th Infantry Division] the privilege of being central to honoring TSgt Charles Coolidge and on behalf of every member of the 72d Infantry Brigade Combat Team and the 36th Infantry Division, thank you for your service. Rest In Peace TSgt Coolidge," said Rivera.

    The sacrifice and bravery Coolidge had for his country was celebrated during his funeral by family and friends in Tennessee, Texas, and people worldwide through a live streaming service.

    "Being a MOH recipient did not make him a role model," said Coolidge. "Nor does it make anyone else who holds the medal, either. The medal calls attention to their outstanding character, those character traits that he exhibited; patriotism, citizenship, courage, integrity, sacrifice, and commitment. If there is one thing we learned from dad, it's the positive attitude that gets you from 'I cannot' to 'I can' to 'I will.' No matter what hurdle was thrown his way, whether it was a tank, a crippling disease, or something else, he faced everything with a positive attitude."

    His bio and story can be found at:



    Date Taken: 04.16.2021
    Date Posted: 04.29.2021 00:37
    Story ID: 395085
    Location: CHATTANOOGA, TN, US 

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