COLUMBUS — Their heroic acts stretched from a Civil War battlefield at Petersburg, Va., to the World War II islands of Japan, but they were together in spirit if not body Friday as they were inducted into the Ohio Military Hall of Fame for Valor.
Half of the 20 new inductees were honored at the Ohio Statehouse posthumously. Some died on the days that the acts for which they were honored occurred. Time claimed others, but 10 more lived to see the moment.
Two northwest Ohioans, both from Marblehead but from wars half a century apart, were among those inducted — Army 1st Lt. Fred W. Norton, who died in France during World War I, and Army Specialist 4 John G. Henderson, Jr. Mr. Henderson accepted his award while his 91-year-old World War II veteran father and namesake was at his side.
U.S. Rep. Pat Tiberi, a suburban Columbus Republican and honorary hall of fame board member, said each recipient is a true “hero,” a word he said is thrown around too loosely these days.
“The real heroes are those who are either with us today or whose families are representing them today,” he said. “They put the care of their comrades and the success of their mission before their own comfort, their own safety, and their own lives.”
Lieutenant Norton died in 1918 from wounds suffered when his air squadron became the first large American formation to confront a large German patrol in northeast France.
Unable to return fire because both guns jammed, he used his plane to maneuver around and dive at the enemy. His actions helped his comrades destroy two of the German planes. He died three days later. He had been awarded the U.S. Distinguished Service Cross.
The Norton House residence hall on the campus of alma mater Ohio State University is named for him, and a scholarship is awarded in his name each year to a Danbury High School student. In 2010, he was inducted into Ohio State’s Athletic of Fame for football, basketball, baseball, and track.
“He fell through the cracks,” said Ed Lynch, his cousin who accepted this award. “When my cousin applied for that one, they asked ‘Where’s he been? Why doesn’t anybody know about this?’ Everybody in Marblehead knows who he is.”
Specialist Henderson was honored for his actions on Aug. 18, 1968, in responding to a large Viet Cong assault on Nui Ba Den Base Camp and helping to retake a helicopter pad and the surrounding area. He is credited with weathering exploding rocket grenades to maintain fire pressure to block the enemy’s progress.
After the ceremony he said he still wonders why he was there to accept the award when others could not.
“There’s a lot of men who don’t get the awards they should get, and when they’re gone, then they get them,” he said. “It’s really sad. … I’ve got a guilt about that. I often ask myself ‘Why me?’ I don’t know. I guess the Lord saved me for something special.”
He received the U.S. Bronze Star with “V” Device.
The 20 inductees bring the members of the hall of fame to 258, six of whom had been awarded the Medal of Honor. The organization was founded in 2000.
This year’s recipients fought and sometimes died in the Civil War, World War I, World War II, Korean War, and Vietnam War. One of the recipients this year was killed in an Apache attack in 1868.
Contact Jim Provance at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 614-221-0496.