Pinewood Elementary welcomes two Medal of Honor recipients

Pinewood Elementary students, staff and District 882 leaders welcomed two Vietnam War veterans and Medal of Honor recipients to a special school-wide Medal of Honor Day program Thursday in Monticello.

The Medal of Honor is the United States of America’s highest military honor, awarded for personal acts of valor above and beyond the call of duty.

The medal is awarded by the President of the United States in the name of the U.S. Congress to U.S. military personnel only.

Donald Ballard and James Taylor arrived at Pinewood via a motorcade and were greeted outside the school by flag-waving students and staff before entering the building for the morning-long program, which was organized to give students a better understanding of what it means to be a good citizen and the importance commitment, integrity, courage, sacrifice and patriotism as core values.

Ballard served as a U.S. Navy Hospital Corspman 2nd Class with Company M, 3rd Battalion, 4th Marines, Third Marine Division. Ballard treated two U.S. Marines suffering from heat exhaustion, and when returning to his unit, he and his company were attacked by the North Vietnamese Army.

While under fire, Ballard helped aid other wounded Marines and when a grenade landed nearby, he lay on top of it to protect the wounded. The grenade failed to explode and Ballard was able to throw it away to explode harmlessly. He then continue to treat the wounded. Ballard was awarded the Medal of Honor on May 14, 1970.

Taylor served as a U.S. Army first lieutenant with Troop B of the 1st Cavalry Division. When his commander was wounded in action, Taylor was sent to the combat zone to take command. During battle, Taylor repeatedly exposed himself to enemy fire to rescue crewmen from damaged vehicles and personnel carriers. He moved forward on foot to rescue the wounded men from the burning vehicle and personally removed all the crewmen and brought them to a safe location. Moments later the vehicle exploded.

As Taylor was returning to his vehicle, he was wounded by the enemy, yet he bravely returned to continue to help others. He was directly responsible for saving the lives of a number of his fellow soldiers. Taylor was awarded the Medal of Honor on Nov. 19, 1968.

Monticello American Legion Post 260 and VFW Post 8731 color guard members also participated in the event, along with representatives from the Wright County Sheriff’s Office and Monticello Fire Department.

The morning program featured the Pledge of Allegiance, National Anthem, student questions, and performances by the Pinewood Medal of Honor Choir.

See next week’s Monticello Times for photos and additional coverage of the Pinewood Medal of Honor Day.

Contact Tim Hennagir at [email protected]