Fifty years ago, the Freedoms Foundation took another step in its mission to promote engaged citizenship by creating the Medal of Honor Grove. A tribute to those who have received our nation’s highest honor, the Grove serves as a beautiful place of remembrance for the brave souls who risked—and sometimes, sacrificed—everything.


Medal of Honor Grove

“The Medal of Honor is the highest award for valor in action against an enemy force which can be bestowed upon an individual serving in the Armed Services of the United States. It is most often presented to its recipient by the President of the United States in the name of Congress.” Congressional Medal of Honor Society

More times than not, the Medal of Honor is presented posthumously, the recipients having sacrificed their lives to save others.

The Medal dates back to the Civil War, when President Abraham Lincoln approved legislation on Dec. 21, 1861, on behalf of the Navy. Legislation for the Army medal was approved on July 12, 1862.

The Medal of Honor Grove was conceived by Kenneth Wells, Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower, E.F. Hutton, Gen. Omar Bradley, and others at Freedoms Foundation at Valley Forge, and the site was dedicated on the Foundation’s campus in 1964.

The Grove, 42 acres of natural woodland, is the oldest living memorial honoring the more than 3,500 Medal of Honor recipients. (All men but for one — Civil War surgeon Mary Walker.) An area of land is set aside for the recipients in each of the 50 states, as well as Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia.

Each state has a seven-foot obelisk centered on a 25-square-foot brick plaza. The recipients accredited by the Congressional Medal of Honor Society to that state are identified by name, rank, and service branch on the obelisk. Recipients are additionally honored with a ground marker engraved with their name, branch of service, and the date and location of the act of valor.

On May 30, 1968, California, Mississippi, Nevada, and Ohio were the first states to be dedicated into the Medal of Honor Grove. Hundreds attended the ceremony, which was followed by a luncheon. Recipients Gino J. Merli (PA) and Thomas J. Kelly (NY), both World War II veterans, participated in the program.

The first obelisks were made of fiberglass but, thanks to sponsoring organizations and donors, most have been replaced with obelisks made of stone — often stone native to that particular state. To date, 21 fiberglass obelisks remain.

The Henry Knox Museum, devoted to Medal recipients, was dedicated in 1966. In 1979, the Grove welcomed the Chaplains Memorial, a tribute to the chaplains who have received the Medal of Honor. Six years later, the Ancient Order of Hibernians erected an obelisk dedicated to the more than 160 Medal recipients who were not U.S. citizens and therefore had no home state.

The Friends of the Medal of Honor Grove, which raises funds to maintain and improve this hallowed ground, was formed in 2011. To learn more about the group, or for information on tours, visit