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Legislators urge White House to hold state funeral for final WW2 Medal of Honor recipient when they pass

Sep 03 2019
The SalemNews online

Both chambers of the Missouri Congressional delegation in Washington D.C. and both houses of the State Legislature in Jefferson City recently called on the Trump Administration to provide a state funeral in Washington. D.C., for the last remaining World War II Congressional Medal of Honor recipient when he passes away.

In total, 474 Americans received given the nation’s highest military honor during the Second World War, but only three remain today.

The nationwide, bi-partisan initiative is led by the nonprofit State Funeral for World War II Veterans Chairman Lee William (Bill) McNutt.

"The approximate 400,000 remaining veterans of the Second World War will benefit from a state funeral in Washington D.C. for the final Congressional Medal of Honor recipient from World War II,” said Donald "Doc" Ballard, board member of the State Funeral for World War II Veterans who resides in Kansas City.

“This will be a final salute to the greatest generation, and we’re grateful for the entire Missouri Congressional delegation and both houses of the state legislatures’ support. They are all in on this initiative. We need as many elected voices as possible from across the county to join this cause if we are to ensure this happens.”

Members of the Missouri Congressional Delegation affixing their signatures to the presidential letter were U.S. Sens. Roy Blunt (R-MO), Josh Hawley (R-MO), and Representatives Vicky Hartzler (R-MO), Blaine Luetkemeyer (R-MO), Wm. Lacy Clay (D-MO), Ann Wagner (R-MO), Billy Long (R-MO), Sam Graves (R-MO), Jason Smith (R-MO) and Emanuel Cleaver (D-MO).

The State Funeral for World War II Veterans’ nationwide campaign calls for the president to designate a state funeral for the last Congressional Medal of Honor recipient from World War II, as a final salute to the 16 million men and women of the greatest generation who served in our armed forces from 1941 to 1945.

The White House holds sole authority to enact a state funeral and does not require approval from the U.S. Congress. A state funeral is a seven to 10-day national event and consists of ceremonies within the state where the honoree was in residence, within Washington, D.C., and in the state (or at Arlington National Cemetery) where the authorized individual has chosen to be interred.

All funeral arrangements are made by the U.S. Military District of Washington, D.C., and involve Armed Forces honor guards, elite military bands, and/or guns support (source White website). The last two state funerals were Ronald Reagan in 2004 and George Bush in 2018. The last non-presidential state funeral was General Douglas MacArthur in 1964.

This effort is the brainchild of McNutt’s 10-year-old daughter, Rabel, a public school student, in honor of her godfather, Walter Ehlers, the oldest holder of the Congressional Medal of Honor when he died in 2014. He received the honor for his efforts at the Battle for Normandy in June 1944.

“We are blessed to have Richard LaBrash as our powerful state chairman in Missouri said Bill McNutt. “He gets things done and is deep in the veterans community in the ‘Show Me State.’” There are three local state board members in Salem: Paul Wingfield and Tooter Pryor, both veterans of WW2 and Dave Pace, Vietnam.

Three World War II Congressional Medal of Honor recipients remain: Hershel “Woody” Williams of West Virginia, Francis (Frank) Currey of New York and Charles Coolidge of Tennessee. All three are more than 90 years of age.

Missouri's Congressional Delegation is one of five states to call for a state funeral for the World War II resolution. The state is also one of four to pass a joint resolution supporting the initiative.