With today being Memorial Day, I thought I would write an article highlighting some of those to which this day is dedicated. We live in an age where sports stars are idolized by the masses and Hollywood celebrities are revered for no other reason than that they are famous, worshipped by the masses. The word hero gets tossed around more than in a Marvel comic book and often this title bestowed on those who fall far short of such an accolade. The true heroes of our time many times remain anonymous, the names only revered by their family and those few who witnessed their greatness and lived to tell of it. Below are just a few, relatively unknown heroes from a war hardly spoken of in the decades since it raged in the mountains and hills of Korea.

PFC Melvin L. Brown – U.S. Army

PFC Melvin Brown was part of the 8th Engineer Combat Battalion, Delta Company. His platoon was securing Hill 755, also called the Walled City in September of 1950 when enemy forces counterattacked with heavy automatic weapons as well as small arms fire. PFC Brown, a mere 19 years old, took the initiative and exposing himself on a 50-foot wall, he returned fire, pinning the enemy down until he exhausted his ammunition. Though wounded, PFC Brown continued to stay in the fight, lobbing grenade after grenade which were being supplied to him by his fellow battle buddies in nearby foxholes, even dismounting to retrieve additional grenades and returning to his position atop the wall, all while under intense enemy fire. Soon, he exhausted his supply and though weaponless, PFC Brown refused to accept defeat. He drew his entrenching tool and waiting patiently until the enemy advanced, peering over the wall, then using his tool, struck them, 1 by 1, knocking nearly a dozen enemy off the wall. His courageous actions inspired the men of his platoon and they repelled this enemy force and held their position. No doubt, if it wasn’t for the extraordinary actions of PFC Brown, dozens of American men would have been added to the mounting casualty list. PFC Melvin Brown was killed in action on September 5th, 1950. For this he was posthumously awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor in February of 1951.

CPT Emil J. Kapaun – U.S. Army

Emil joined the army from Kansas, serving as chaplain in the 1st Cavalry Division, 8th Regiment assigned to the 3rd Battalion. His unit was conducting combat operations in Unsan, Korea in November of 1950. On the 1st of November, Chinese forces began a vicious attack and Chaplain Kapaun, with no regard for his own safety, calmly walked through intense and effective enemy fire to give comfort and perform first aid to the men of his unit, evacuating the severely wounded from the areas of concentrated enemy fire.

Though the Chinese attack was repelled, they were basically surrounded and the order came down that all able bodied men needed to evacuate to avoid certain capture. Acutely aware of his own imminent capture, Chaplain Kapaun elected to remain behind to care for those wounded and unable to retreat. Soon, the enemy broke through in the dark morning hours of November 2nd and during the attack, Chaplain Kapaun courageously attended the wounded and dying as the battle evolved into savage hand-to-hand combat. As Communist forces rushed in, Chaplain Kapaun successfully convinced a wounded Chinese officer to negotiate the safe surrender of the embattled American forces.

Not only did Chaplain Kapaun’s courageous actions save the lives of many wounded men, he saved the life of Sergeant Herbert Miller who would have been executed but Chaplain Kapaun, with complete disregard for his own life, pushed aside the enemy soldier who was preparing this execution. Because of his daring leadership, unwavering heroism and extraordinary selflessness, Chaplain Kapaun inspired the remaining men to continue the fight until the last moment, allowing many others to escape to freedom. Chaplain Kapaun was killed in action in May of 1951, his nephew was presented his posthumously awarded Medal of Honor in April of 2013.

2nd Lieutenant Sherrod E. Skinner, Jr. – U.S. Marine Corps