Sgt. William Shemin and Pvt. William Henry Johnson fought bravely and distinguished themselves in the trenches and killing fields of France during World War I. Their heroism, however, was overlooked and downplayed for almost a century because of their cultural and ethnic backgrounds.

Elsie Shemin-Roth

Elsie Shemin-Roth will receive the Medal of Honor on behalf of her father. (U.S. Army photo)

Today, in a Medal of Honor ceremony at the White House, President Barack Obama will set things right and recognize the two soldiers’ service and sacrifice. Sgt. Shemin’s daughter, Elsie Shemin-Roth, will receive the Medal of Honor on behalf of her father and Command Sgt. Maj. Louis Wilson, New York Army National Guard,  will accept the nation’s highest military award on behalf of Pvt. Johnson,

“He told us all to always do more than you are asked,” Shemin-Roth said of her father. “He directed our lives to be good, productive Jewish-American citizens. We all loved him dearly, but we also know that he’d been through much too much.”

Command Sgt. Maj. Wilson said it was important to honor Johnson’s legacy and educate Americans about his heroism too.

“It’s a good thing that Henry Johnson is finally being recognized as a hero,” Wilson said. “What he did, we can do the same. We do our duty for our country and that is what we raise our hands to do.”


You can watch the ceremony here:


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Published on Jun. 2, 2015

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