111th Attack Wing volunteers at Medal of Honor Grove
By Staff Sgt. Ross Alexander Whitley, 111th Attack Wing
/ Published September 27, 2021
BIDDLE AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, Pa. --
When the 112th Cyber Operations Squadron here, searched for a community service project to build esprit de corps while giving back to the local community, they found a local cause that gives back on a national level.
Medal of Honor Grove at Valley Forge, Pennsylvania, is a living memorial to those who accomplished legendary deeds while serving our nation, and its grounds were in disarray because COVID-19 protocols prevented volunteers from maintaining the grounds for several months until the 112th COS stepped in, June 16, 2021.
“To me, it makes sense,” said Pennsylvania Air National Guard Lt. Col. Thomas A. Love, 112 COS Commander. “They're all Medal of Honor recipients, and we're the Pa. State Guard. This is in Pa. We need to do this.”
After an initial meeting with the Friends of the Medal of Honor Grove, Love and his team realized the job called for reinforcements. So, they invited the entire 111th Attack Wing, which resulted in almost 70 Guardsmen volunteering to help.
When the volunteers arrived, they experienced a forest setting worthy of memorializing those whose gallantry resulted in our nation's highest military decoration. The soft green grass, tall trees, and rolling hills spanning its 42 acres of natural woodland provided shade from the sun’s intensity, and a gentle wind seemed to cast a calming atmosphere against the heavy hearts of the volunteer custodians tending the grounds.
Unlike Arlington, Normandy and Gettysburg, places renowned for being the final resting place of our service members, Medal of Honor Grove is not a cemetery. The grounds are not for laying service members bodies to rest, but for keeping the legacy of their deeds alive.
For Deb Woolson, the Volunteer Director for the Medal of Honor Grove, these grounds may have been temporarily neglected due to a global pandemic, but they were never forgotten.
“We had a Medal of Honor recipient’s mother come here,” said Woolson.
“She said the only thing worse than dying is being forgotten. And, that’s what we do at the Friends [of the Medal of Honor Grove], make sure they’re never forgotten.”
Woolson marveled at all the work the 111th service members were able to complete. With their pickaxes, shovels, and wheelbarrows, the members straightened and fixed plaques, cleared debris, and dug runoff trenches.
“What they’ve [the guard volunteers] done here... this is just huge,” said Woolson. “And, it will help us maintain these sites in a much better way. So, I’m really indebted to all of the National Guard people who are here. It's a huge thing.”
After all the work was done, Love and his team left feeling a sense of pride that they helped continue the memory of these gallant acts.
“I think it's an awesome experience to get these guys out here and actually see a park that's for the Medal of Honor recipients and be able to give back to those who gave a lot.”