Two years ago, I wrote about how years long lobbying efforts to award Lieutenant Alonzo Cushing the Congressional Medal of Honor had been successful as the Secretary of the Army had recommended that Cushing receive the award. It looked like a done deal, but as usual with the military and the government, it wasn’t that easy.
It turns out there is a time limit of only a few years after the action that formal recommendations can be made for awarding the Medal of Honor, and it takes an act of Congress to waive the time limit requirement. Both the House and Senate must approve the waiver, as does the Secretary of Defense. Final approval must then be made by the president.
Cushing, a West Point graduate and Wisconsin native ,was killed while directing Battery A of the Fourth U.S. Artillery at the Battle of Gettysburg on July 3rd, 1863. Battery A was at the Copse of Trees, the focal point of what became known as Pickett’s Charge on the final day of the battle. Many of Cushing’s men were killed or wounded, and four of his six guns were taken out of action by Confederate fire, but despite being wounded several times, Cushing refused to leave the field. The lieutenant and a handful of gunners kept firing on the advancing line, even moving a gun forward despite heavy enemy fire, before Cushing was killed. He was 22 years old.
It seems like hardly anything is done in a bipartisan manner these days, but Democrat Ron Kind and Republican James Sensenbrenner, both of Wisconsin, introduced legislation in a defense bill that would waive the time limit for Cushing. Senator Herb Kohl (D-Wis.) has done the same thing in the Senate. There are a lot of items in the defense bill, and passage of the waiver will depend on how the bill as a whole does as it makes its way through the process. The good news is that the bill has passed in the House of Representatives, so it’s over one hurdle.
If the defense bill doesn’t pass, I urge Rep. Kind and Rep. Sensenbrenner, or any other Congressman for that matter, to introduce separate, standalone legislation to get the waiver approved so Lt. Cushing can finally get the honor he earned that day when he gave his life for his country. There’s no question Cushing’s actions that day at Gettysburg are worthy of the Medal of Honor, so let’s get the technicalities over with. For those wishing to write their representatives or senators to voice support, the Senate bill number is S.2404 and the House bill is H.R.4933.
Thirteen months from now, the nation will commemorate the sesquicentennial of the Battle of Gettysburg. Lt. Alonzo Cushing should be honored for his bravery and sacrifice by being awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor at Gettysburg National Military Park on the 150th anniversary of his death on July 3rd, 2013.