On Monday, May 30, the national day of remembrance for those who died while serving their nation, the U.S. Postal Service honored military service members who have been awarded one of the four Service Cross Medals — the Army Distinguished Service Cross, the Navy Cross, which includes the Marine Corps, the Air Force Cross and the Coast Guard Cross.
The Memorial Day first-day-of-issue dedication ceremony for the Honoring Extraordinary Heroism: The Service Cross Medals Forever stamps took place at New York City’s Jacob K. Javits Convention Center as part of the world’s largest stamp show that only takes place in the United States once a decade, World Stamp Show-NY 2016. More than 250,000 visitors are expected to attend this week-long event. The public is asked to share the news on social media using the hashtag #ServiceCrossStamps.
U.S. Coast Guard New York Sector Deputy Commander Captain Thomas Morkan joined U.S. Postal Service Chief Information Officer and Executive Vice President Kristin Seaver in dedicating the stamps.
“Story after story, act after act reveals a new profile in courage and a spirit of American greatness that has defined this nation from the very beginning,” said Seaver. “These medals — and these stamps — pay homage to such heroic actions and dedication to duty.”
“It takes extraordinary heroism to be awarded such a decoration and frequently it requires the ultimate sacrifice,” said Morkan. “That type of sacrifice, that willingness to lay your life on the line for your country is what we as a nation pause to reflect upon and to pay homage to on Memorial Day. It is a great day for parades and celebrations and backyard barbeques with family and friends — but it is also the day that we honor those who since the war of independence have done what needed to be done.
Their willingness to hazard all, to pay any price, to never tire, to never cease to struggle is why we are a free and proud people, citizens of the greatest nation on this earth. That struggle is never ending. Service men and women are in harm’s way today at this very moment. As you enjoy your barbeque and the company of family and friends, I ask that you spare a few moments to honor those who so willingly make it possible.”
The Service Cross Medals
Many recipients of these awards died or were severely wounded as a result of the valorous actions for which they were honored, while a number of others died in subsequent battles before receiving the award for their earlier actions. Many recipients rescued wounded service members or drew enemy fire to buy time for others to regroup or be rescued. Some continued fighting despite their own wounds.
According to official accounts, all braved enemy fire, made bold decisions and took selfless actions to rescue or protect their fellow service members. These medals pay homage to such valorous actions and dedication to duty.
The Distinguished Service Cross was the first of these decorations to be established, in 1918, followed the next year by the Navy Cross. The Air Force Cross was instituted in 1960, following the creation of the Air Force as a separate military service independent from the Army. The Coast Guard Cross was only recently instituted, in 2010, to recognize its members for qualifying actions taken when not operating under the Department of the Navy or during military operations against international terrorists. This decoration is yet to be awarded.
The Service Cross Medals are the second highest military decoration for valor in combat, after the Medal of Honor. In the official language authorized by congressional legislation, the Service Cross Medals are given for extraordinary heroism not justifying the award of a Medal of Honor while:
- engaged in an action against an enemy of the United States;
- engaged in military operations involving conflict with an opposing foreign force; or
- serving with friendly foreign forces engaged in an armed conflict against an opposing armed force in which the United States is not a belligerent party.
Art director Greg Breeding of Charlottesville, VA, designed the stamps and stamp sheet, working with photographs of the medals by Richard Frasier of Vienna, VA. The photographs were taken on location at The Institute of Heraldry, Department of the Army, which provided the actual decorations used in these images.