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'Righting a wrong with historical accuracy' Task force works to award valor to minority servicemen

Valor Medals Review Task Force
Posted at 5:54 PM, May 26, 2022
and last updated 2022-05-26 23:19:02-04

PARKVILLE, Mo. — A group of people at Park University are working to make sure heroic acts by minorities during World War I are officially recognized.

The Valor Medals Review Task Force was formed after Congress required a review of minority veterans, who served during the Great War.

The task force is made up of a team that explores the military service and personal lives of the veterans before and after the war.

"Injustices that occurred in the past, we can look at them and we can try to rectify them, and that's what I'm trying to do," said Josh Weston.

Weston leads the team conducting military research.

"Probably the most profound thing I've come across is records from John J. Pershing himself that have stated not to award African Americans and recognize them for high honors simple because of their race," Weston said.

Time is the biggest challenge for researchers as they search for information over 100 years old.

"I can't even tell you how many different organizations I called in the last four years," Ashlyn Weber said. "There's so many emails floating in the ethernet that I never got a response to."

Weber leads the team researching the personal lives of the veterans. She said her work begins with a name, rank or unit.

Recently, Weber heard from the grandson of a Jewish-American who served in the Great War who told her, "I just want to tell you that my grandfather meant a lot to me, he was a wonderful man, he was a wonderful father, and I hope you can see that."

The researchers stress that their work is important despite the fact that more than a century has passed.

"They're deceased, they're not going to get it themselves," Dr. Timothy Westcott said. "We say yes that's true, but there are family members still living. They look at this as important."

The work is also important for Dr. Westcott who leads the research as director of the George S. Robb Centre.

"As a Marine this is my duty. Marines we say we never leave anybody on the battlefield, and that's what we're doing in my opinion here," Dr. Westcott said. "I'm not leaving any of these 214 right now on the battlefield."

Westcott explained that after his team conducts their research, the findings are sent to the U.S. Army and Navy for review.