Fort Leonard Wood battalion commander speaks at dedication ceremony
“Let’s think about the phrase, ‘above and beyond the call of duty,’” said Lt. Col. Marlon Ringo, 35th Engineer Battalion commander, as part of his remarks Saturday at Veterans Memorial Park in Rolla, Missouri, where he spoke at the dedication of the newest monument there — one that celebrates recipients of the Congressional Medal of Honor. “We already ask our service members to be willing and ready to risk their lives to protect our great nation. So, what differentiates those who receive the Medal of Honor? It’s selfless service, unwavering determination in the face of adversity and a courageous devotion to duty.”
According to Glenn Gibson, South Central Regional Veterans Group chairman and organizer of Saturday’s dedication, the monument was added at the park last spring.
“We were originally going to do this in May, but we had to postpone,” he said. “Moving our event to this date, we knew it was a gamble because it’s November, but we ended up with a beautiful day for it and we get to tie it in with Veterans Day, so it worked out.”
Gibson said the city of Rolla donated the land for the park, which currently contains 20 monuments honoring American military campaigns from the Revolutionary War to the present. He said he checked to see if there were any living Medal of Honor recipients nearby he could invite.
“We only have one living in Missouri,” he said. “He’s an elderly gentleman, so we decided not to invite him. We felt the monument itself is important enough, though, that we needed to have it dedicated.”
Ringo said only 3,466 individuals have met the criteria to receive the Medal of Honor. He told the story of Missouri-native and Medal of Honor recipient Staff Sgt. Herbert Burr. His actions in WWII on March 19, 1945 are a “great example” of conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity.
“He was serving as a gunner on a road reconnaissance mission in Germany when his tank was hit by an enemy rocket,” Ringo said. “His entire crew was severely injured, and Burr was deafened by the blast. After evacuating his crew, Burr climbed into the tank alone to continue the mission.
“He encountered an anti-tank gun at pointblank range,” Ringo continued. “Realizing that he had no crew, no one to man the tank’s guns, he heroically chose to disregard his personal safety in a direct charge on the German weapon. At considerable speed, he headed straight for the loaded gun, which was fully manned by enemy troops who had only to pull the lanyard to send a shell into his vehicle. So unexpected and daring was his assault that he was able to drive his tank completely over the gun, demolishing it and causing its crew to flee in confusion.”
Ringo said he could think of no better time to dedicate a monument recognizing “the service and sacrifice” of Medal of Honor recipients than around Veterans Day.
“Our military’s mission — to fight and win our nation’s wars — is only possible through the courage, professionalism and perseverance of our people,” he said.
There are currently about 19.5 million veterans, including 450,000 in Missouri, Ringo said.
“The future health of our military is tied to how well we take care of our veteran teammates,” he said.