As a 21-year-old Navy hospital corpsman, Robert Ingram was serving with Company C, First Battalion, Seventh Marines, when the platoon he was attached to was ambushed in Vietnam in 1966.
In mere moments, the platoon ranks were decimated. Oblivious to the danger, Petty Officer Ingram crawled across the bullet spattered terrain to reach a downed Marine. As he administered aid, a bullet went through the palm of his hand. Calls for “CORPSMAN” echoed across the ridge. Bleeding, he edged across the fire swept landscape, collecting ammunition from the dead and administering aid to the wounded. Receiving two more wounds before realizing the third wound was life-threatening, he looked for a way off the face of the ridge, but again he heard the call for corpsman and again, he resolutely answered. Though severely wounded three times, he rendered aid to those incapable until he finally reached the right flank of the platoon. While dressing the head wound of another corpsman, he sustained his fourth bullet wound. From sixteen hundred hours until just prior to sunset, Petty Officer Ingram pushed, pulled, cajoled, and doctored his Marines. Enduring the pain from his many wounds and disregarding the probability of his demise, Petty Officer Ingram’s intrepid actions saved many lives that day. By his indomitable fighting spirit, daring initiative, and unfaltering dedications to duty, Petty Officer Ingram reflected great credit upon himself and upheld the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service.
So reads the citation for the Medal of Honor awarded to Jacksonville resident Robert “Doc” Ingram by President Bill Clinton on July 10, 1998. An honor long in coming–fully 30 years after his acts of valor in Vietnam–the ceremony inducted Ingram into that rarest of fraternities: recipients of the Congressional Medal of Honor, the highest award for valor in action against an enemy force that can be bestowed upon an individual serving in the Armed Services of the United States. The medal was conceived one hundred and fifty years ago today.
On December 21, 1861, a bill was passed by the U.S. Congress authorizing that “medals be bestowed upon such petty officers, seamen, landsmen and marines as shall distinguish themselves by their gallantry in action.” President Abraham Lincoln signed the bill and the Congressional Medal of Honor was born. To date, there have been 3,458 recipients of the Medal of Honor, of which 85 are living today. The first award of the Medal of Honor was made March 25, 1863 to Private JACOB PARROTT. The last award of the Medal of Honor was made September 15, 2011 to Sergeant DAKOTA MEYER.
Over the years, the Medal has become a historic symbol of the bravest of the brave, and in respect to all who have earned it, little has been done to change its design, which dates to the eary days of the Civil War.
By far, the most were awarded for service during the Civil War – 1,522, not counting 893 that were revoked during a strenuous review that was undertaken in 1917 after many veterans feared the granting of medals had gotten out of hand. Among those who lost their medals were the 29 soldiers in President Abraham Lincoln’s funeral guard.
By World War I, the medal had attained the special significance it holds today. Only 124 Americans received the medal for valor during that war, compared with 424 granted for service during the Indian Wars of the late 1800s. Since then, the honor roll is as follows: World War II, 464 medals; Korea, 131; Vietnam, 245; Somalia, two; Iraq, four; and Afghanistan, six.
Only one woman has been awarded the medal: President Andrew Johnson honored Dr. Mary E. Walker for devoting herself “with much patriotic zeal to the sick and wounded soldiers, both in the field and hospitals, to the detriment of her own health.” She participated in major campaigns from Bull Run to Chickamauga, even enduring four months as a Confederate prisoner of war, but her medal was rescinded in 1917 (along with 911 other medal recipients) for being ineligible for the honor due to her civilian status.
Hero is a term frequently heard, but never more deserved than when applied to the nation’s Medal of Honor recipients. These are ordinary people who just happen to have performed extraordinary acts of courage and valor on behalf of their country. Through the years, eight of these men have called Jacksonville home; we invite you to read their inspiring stories: