Fascinating stories about amazing Kentuckians are everywhere, if you just stop to listen.
Recently, the United States Postal Service commended an extraordinary Kentuckian on his bravery and service in the Korean War.
Kentuckian Ernest West received a Medal of Honor --the nation's highest award for valor -- for his brave service to the United States Army during the Korean War. The citation accompanying his award states:
Pfc. West distinguished himself by conspicuous gallantry above and beyond the call of duty in action against the enemy. He voluntarily accompanied a contingent to locate and destroy a reported enemy outpost. Nearing the objective, the patrol was ambushed and suffered numerous casualties. Observing his wounded leader lying in an exposed position, Pfc. West ordered the troops to withdraw, then braved intense fire to reach and assist him. While attempting evacuation, he was attacked by 3 hostile soldiers employing grenades and small-arms fire. Quickly shifting his body to shelter the officer, he killed the assailants with his rifle, then carried the helpless man to safety. He was critically wounded and lost an eye in this action. but courageously returned through withering fire and bursting shells to assist the wounded. While evacuating 2 comrades, he closed with and killed 3 more of the foe. Pfc. West's indomitable spirit, consummate valor, and intrepid actions inspired all who observed him, reflect the highest credit on himself, and uphold the honored traditions of the military service.
Mr. West was one of the 145 members of the American Armed Forces to be awarded the Korean War Medal of Honor. The U.S. Postal Service recently issued commemorative stamps in honor of these brave Americans, including historic photos of the surviving awardees. This past weekend, Mr. West was honored at a ceremony at the Wurtland Middle School in his Greenup County hometown.
Recently, I was at a GLOW (Greater Louisville Oustanding Women) meeting where Alisa Zanetti, the USPS Marketing Manager for Kentucky, told me a little about Mr. West's story. As she spoke, it became so much more than a story pitch for HerKentucky; it was the story of so many Kentuckians I might know. Mr. West was raised in the Kentucky United Methodist Children's Home in Versailles; I grew up hearing my grandmother's church speak of special offerings to benefit the Children's Home. Mr. West is from Wurtland; my fiancé grew up in a nearby Greenup County town... This brave gentleman had so many connections to the Eastern and Central Kentucky communities that I know and love. It's a powerful thought: there really are fascinating heroes among us. In Mr. West's case, he's a grandfather and retired electrician in a small Kentucky town as well as a decorated war hero.
The next time you run by the post office for a book of stamps, take a moment to reflect on the fact that there are heroes and fascinating characters all around you. Maybe you just haven't heard their stories yet.