There are too many people to mention who properly deserve credit for pushing long and hard to have a statue of Cpl. Michael Crescenz placed at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Philadelphia's Fairmount Park. You know who you are. And, to all of you, thank you on behalf of all veterans and the people of Philadelphia.
A letter from Mark Focht, First Deputy Commissioner of the Philadelphia Parks and Recreation Department, acknowledged the work of the Philadelphia Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund and the Philadelphia Vietnam Veterans Memorial Society in obtaining the approval in December of a statue of Michael at the memorial.
Engraved on the memorial are the names of 648 Philadelphians who gave their "last full measure of devotion" during the Vietnam War. All deserve our thanks and respect. With a statue of Michael Crescenz, the city's only Vietnam War Medal of Honor recipient, looking over the memorial, they can rest easy.
For those who are not familiar with the bravery for which Michael Crescenz received the Medal of Honor, the following is the citation read by President Richard Nixon in presenting the medal posthumously to Michael's parents on April 7, 1970:
"Cpl. Crescenz distinguished himself by conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action while serving as a rifleman with Company A. In the morning his unit engaged a large, well-entrenched force of the North Vietnamese Army whose initial burst of fire pinned down the lead squad and killed the two point men, halting the advance of Company A. Immediately, Cpl. Crescenz left the relative safety of his own position, seized a nearby machine gun and, with complete disregard for his safety, charged 100 meters up a slope toward the enemy's bunkers which he effectively silenced, killing the two occupants of each. Undaunted by the withering machine gun fire around him, Cpl. Crescenz courageously moved forward toward a third bunker which he also succeeded in silencing, killing two more of the enemy and momentarily clearing the route of advance for his comrades.
"Suddenly, intense machine gun fire erupted from an unseen, camouflaged bunker. Realizing the danger to his fellow soldiers, Cpl. Crescenz disregarded the barrage of hostile fire directed at him and daringly advanced toward the position. Assaulting with his machine gun, Cpl. Crescenz was within 5 meters of the bunker when he was mortally wounded by the fire from the enemy machine gun.
"As a direct result of his heroic actions, his company was able to maneuver freely with minimal danger and to complete its mission, defeating the enemy. Cpl. Crescenz's bravery and extraordinary heroism at the cost of his life are in the highest traditions of the military service and reflect great credit on himself, his unit, and the U.S. Army."
Realistically, there is only so much anyone can do to properly acknowledge the sacrifice of Michael Crescenz and those whose names are engraved on the city's Vietnam Veterans Memorial. The one thing we can do is not forget them or what they did on behalf of our country. And we can acknowledge them in a fashion not provided by a conflicted nation at that time.
Beau Weisman, Editor