Students at Long Shoals Wesleyan Academy spent their morning Thursday learning about real American heroes.
In honor of national Medal of Honor Day March 25, the students planted a tree in their schoolyard in honor of the countyâ€™s only recipient, Rufus Z. Johnston and received a history lesson from American Legion Post 30â€™s past commander Dale Punch.
â€œThese men, they are real heroes, every one of them,â€ said Punch. â€œThese real heroes defended our country so we can live free.â€
Johnston, a Navy admiral, received his medal for his service in the Battle of Vera Cruz in 1914. Born in 1874 in Lincolnton, Johnston died in 1959 and is buried in Arlington Cemetery in Washington, D.C.
While Lincoln Countyâ€™s recipient is no longer alive, Punch stressed the importance to the students of honoring all the 3,400 medal recipients.
There are currently 111 recipients still living. Recipient Col. Jay Zeamer died March 21.
During his talk, Punch spoke about other recipients, some even with ties to Lincoln County.
One of them, Marine Jack Lucas, the students agreed to adopt and correspond with.
Lucas received his medal of honor during World War II during the Battle of Iwo Jima. He is the youngest recipient of the medal since the Civil War, having entered the military at 14.
Punch gave each student a coin representing one of the medalâ€™s recipients and encouraged them to learn more about their lives.
â€œI learned a lot more about what my paw paw had to go through,â€ said eighth-grader Shelby Benfield about the presentation.
Fourth-grader Paul Aldrige said Punchâ€™s talk really opened his eyes to what those in the military have done for our country.
â€œI learned what they had to do to get the medal of honor,â€ he said.
While the students got to learn about medal of honor recipients, Lincoln County residents will get to listen to one in person on May 4.
Each year, the American Legion invites a recipient to speak. This year, the post will host retired Maj. Gen. James E. Livingston.
Livingston, who has more than 33 years of continuous active duty in the Marines, received his medal for his service above and beyond the call of duty in the Vietnam War in 1968. He retired from service in 1995.
For more information, contact the American Legion Post 30, 1120 N. Aspen St., at (704) 732-8355.
by Mary Williams