Living recipients of the Medal of Honor are shown on a sheet of stamps launched by the United States Postal Service (USPS) on Nov. 11, celebrated as Veterans’ Day in that country. The stamps commemorate the 464 recipients of the award during the Second World War.
The stamp launch took place in Washington, D.C., at the National World War II Memorial, with two of the eight living recipients participating. “Our challenge as a nation is to never forget the sacrifices all of these individuals made on our behalf,” Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe said. “We hope these new Medal of Honor forever stamps will provide everyone with one more way to preserve our veterans’ stories for future generations.”
The Medal of Honor is the highest award for bravery in the United States, and is awarded for personal acts of valour above and beyond the call of duty. It is issued in three versions for the army, navy and air force. The 20-stamp sheet, however, shows only the army and navy versions, as the United States air force was part of the army during the Second World War, and a separate version of the medal for that service was not authorized until 1960. It consists of a star and wreath design, suspended from a blue ribbon with white stars. The Medal of Honor was created during the Civil War, and was approved for the navy in 1861 and the army in 1862.
Recipients of the Medal of Honor earn an additional monthly pension, transportation benefits, and invitations to all presidential inaugurations and balls and other benefits. By tradition, a recipient will receive a salute from a senior member of the military. Even a general will salute a private who has received the award. The two recipients participating were army Master Sgt. Wilburn Ross of Dupont, Wash., and army Pte. George Sakato, of Denver, Colo., a retired postal worker. The sheets are part of a four-page design with the first pages having two stamps, one for each type of medal, and photographs of recipients. The centre two pages show a list of the names of all Second World War Medal of Honor recipients, and the fourth page contains the remaining 18 stamps.
The photographs are of the 12 recipients who were alive when the USPS starting working on the stamp, but only eight remain today. The men pictured on the sheet, clockwise from the upper left, are: Charles Coolidge, Francis Curry, Walter Ehlers, John Hawk, Sen. Daniel Inouye of Hawaii, Arthur Jackson, Robert Maxwell, Vernon McGarity, Nicholas Oresko, Ross, Sakato, and Hershel Williams.
Inouye and McGarity died before the stamps were printed, and Oresko and Hawk died after the stamps were printed but before they were revealed.
The USPS is also producing framed art with the first page of the booklet; cut and uncut press sheets, and a pair of first-day covers, one for each medal type, with both black and digital colour postmarks. The program for the first day of issue ceremony is being offered with a cancelled stamp, but purchasers cannot specify which stamp they will receive. The press sheets have a limit of 2,500, but no limit was disclosed for the other stamps.