Alvin Cullum York – Personal Courage

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The Medal of Honor is our nation’s highest and most prestigious award for valor. In the span of two hundred and thirty eight years and over 20 wars, only 3,468 soldiers in our armed forces have been recognized for their sacrifice, gallantry, and display of personal courage in combat. Alvin C. York (December 13, 1887 – September 2, 1964), a country boy from Pall Mall Tennessee and a member of the 82nd Infantry Division, was the most decorated soldier of World War I. Sergeant York is one of the few thousand awarded the MOH, and epitomizes the seventh army value, personal courage. York worked in railroad construction, logging, and farming to aid his widowed mother in raising and supporting his ten siblings. York was a very devout Christian in his church, a protestant denomination that prohibited violence. On his initial, mandatory draft registration York had claimed himself a conscientious objector; his claim was denied and he was drafted in November of 1917 at 29 years of age. Coincidentally throughout his federal active service he was queued on numerous occasions by his mother and pastor to sign documentation to support a discharge for a claim of exemption as the sole support for his mother. He disregarded all of these documents and denied ever having been a conscientious objector. York was assigned to Golf Company of the 328th Infantry Regiment, 82nd Infantry Division. He struggled with deep religious conflictions, the nature of his training, and what he knew his country would expect of him in the coming war. His Battalion Commander, Major Gonzalo Edward Buxton, quoted verses like: Luke 22:36, “He that hath no sword, let him sell his cloak and buy one”, John 18:36, “If my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight”; this gave York the incentive to do some soul searching. He was sent on leave for ten days, when he returned he had renewed
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