RINEYVILLE, Ky. (AP) - The heroism and bravery of soldiers who earn the Medal of Honor have inspired Hollywood filmmakers, authors and local residents alike to appreciate the efforts of American military.
One Rineyville man is so grateful for the acts of patriotism that he made the commemoration of recipients his top mission.
Retired Sgt. 1st Class Richard Powers, a U.S. Army veteran, dedicates his time and money to research and to educate others on the illustrious efforts of those who earned the Medal of Honor.
Recipients of the Medal of Honor, the highest military honor achievable, are carefully selected for personal acts of valor above and beyond the call of duty. According to the U.S. Army Center of Military History, just 3,468 have received the Medal of Honor since its creation in 1861 during the Civil War.
Powers said the creation of the Medal of Honor tribute snowballed into a larger project after an encounter with Medal of Honor recipient and friend, veteran Pfc. Jack Lucas.
“It started about four or five years ago and it was actually an accident,” Powers said. “Jack Lucas and I were friends. One day, he punched me in the stomach because he was a Marine and I was a soldier and he wanted to see how hard a soldier was. Over the years, he gifted me his ribbon, so I held onto it for a couple of years before deciding that I needed do something with it.”
Lucas earned the medal for his efforts in Iwo Jima in 1945 during World War II. He was recognized after hurling himself in front of two Japanese grenades to save the lives of his fellow soldiers.
After designing the glass case for Lucas’ ribbon, Powers kept the piece in his basement. It was soon after that he realized the prestigious military honor was meant to be something more than a home decoration.
“I contacted John Hardin High School to see if they wanted it for students,” Powers said. “I took (the tribute) there and donated it for one year and that’s when it grew.”
Powers said one tribute turned into multiple after other surviving Medal of Honor recipients learned about his story. He now has 14 Medal of Honor tributes that commemorate veterans of the Army, Navy and Marines.
On his website, Powers wrote that his No. 1 mission for the Medal of Honor tributes is to educate youth, who he fears have forgotten about the sacrifices made by military.
“If adults don’t know (about Medal of Honor recipients) chances are their children don’t know either,” Powers said. “It’s a way that I can get something that is original in a school that will inspire students to do more research. These Americans went above and beyond the call of duty.”
There are multiple societies and history centers that document citations and preserve artifacts of Medal of Honor recipients, but Powers’ tributes are made and displayed independently. Because the tributes were created without affiliation, Powers pays out of pocket to build the casings and ship them to other locations for display. He does not charge schools or other venues for using his tributes. Powers and his wife, Josie, said educating others is more important to them than making a profit.
“My wife and I wanted to do this because we believe it’s important that people are taught U.S. history,” Powers said. “They need to know that people did a lot for them to keep the freedoms they have.”
Though every soldier has a different story behind their merits, Medal of Honor recipients have one thing in common - their sense of brotherhood.