On Wednesday, May 29, the Medal of Honor awarded posthumously to Marine Maj. Henry A. Courtney was officially installed for display at Veterans Memorial Hall of the St. Louis County Historical Society. Maj. Courtney’s sister had donated the medal to Freedoms Foundation, which recently agreed to loan the medal to the museum.
Maj. Courtney was awarded the medal for his leadership of an attack during the Battle of Okinawa in the midst of World War II. The ceremony was held on the 74th anniversary of his family receiving word of his death during that battle.
Michael J. Stainbrook, a retired Delta Air Lines pilot who also served as a captain in the U.S. Marine Corps, helped lead the effort to return the medal to Duluth, and offered the following remarks at the installation ceremony:
“It’s been said, ‘Man proposes, God disposes.’ It’s evident from letters written by his own hand and also in letters written about him by others, that Henry Courtney Jr. was a spiritual man.
“When I think of the journey that the artifact before us has taken, I think it appropriate to first pay tribute to the wisdom of Henry Courtney Jr.’s sister, Elizabeth Bean, for having the foresight to think beyond her generation when she donated her brother’s Medal of Honor to an esteemed institution for safekeeping.
“And on behalf of Henry Courtney Jr.’s fellow Duluthians, I thank Freedoms Foundation at Valley Forge for faithful stewardship, and for preserving and protecting this precious artifact, which has such deep meaning to the surviving members of the Courtney family and to our community.
“We look forward to an extended relationship with Freedoms Foundation at Valley Forge and intend to prove ourselves worthy of the trust that they have placed in us. We hope that we will be considered partners, in our dedication to protecting and preserving Maj. Courtney’s Medal of Honor, and also in supporting Freedoms Foundation’s patriotic ideals. In all this, we hope that Freedoms Foundation will find no better friends than the St. Louis County Historical Society, its Veterans Memorial Hall program, and the citizens of our fair city.
“Though it has been 39 years and an uncertain voyage, it seems clear to me, that from the very beginning Providence has indeed had His hand upon the journey of Maj. Courtney’s Medal of Honor back to our native son’s hometown. Though it is tempting to think of our event today as a sort of celebration, I resist the notion, especially when I consider the significance of this date and the awful news received by the Courtney family back in 1945. Instead, I think it better to frame this day as a fitting tribute to our native son’s true heroism as well as his love for his family, his country, and his fellow Marines.”
Stainbrook also read these remarks from Chris Rothey, chairman of Freedoms Foundation’s Board of Directors, and David Harmer, the Foundation’s president and CEO:
“There is something sacred about the Medal of Honor. On one level, it represents the tremendous courage and commitment of an individual who goes above and beyond the call of duty, often against overwhelming odds, and often in hopes of saving the lives of others. In many cases, as is true of Maj. Courtney, that individual pays the ultimate price for this act of valor.
“On another level, as many recipients have said, the Medal isn’t about them individually. They wear it for all those who have fought and died in defense of this great nation and its values and principles.
“Today Maj. Courtney’s Medal of Honor comes home to Duluth, where, quite appropriately, it will be surrounded by his family, friends, and hometown admirers. May it forever remind us of one heroic man’s gallantry, as well as the bravery of all who protect us. And may we prove worthy of their service and their sacrifice.”
Read the story of the installation ceremony from the Duluth News Tribune here.
Keep up with Freedoms Foundation news and events here.