Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Sgt. Einar Ingman: American Hero

Sgt. Einar Ingman, Medal of Honor recipient for his extraordinary duty in the Korean War, died in Tomahawk, Wisconsin this past week. The Congressional Medal of Honor is a big deal, very few are awarded. From the Medal of Honor site: “The Medal of Honor is the highest military decoration awarded by the United States government. It is bestowed by the United States Congress on members of the United States Armed Forces who distinguish themselves through "conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his or her life above and beyond the call of duty while engaged in an action against an enemy of the United States." 

This is from the commendation awarding Sgt. Ingman the Medal of Honor: “Sgt. Ingman, a member of Company E, distinguished himself by conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity above and beyond the call of duty in action against the enemy. The 2 leading squads of the assault platoon of his company, while attacking a strongly fortified ridge held by the enemy, were pinned down by withering fire and both squad leaders and several men were wounded. Cpl. Ingman assumed command, reorganized and combined the 2 squads, then moved from 1 position to another, designating fields of fire and giving advice and encouragement to the men. Locating an enemy machine gun position that was raking his men with devastating fire he charged it alone, threw a grenade into the position, and killed the remaining crew with rifle fire. Another enemy machine gun opened fire approximately 15 yards away and inflicted additional casualties to the group and stopped the attack. When Cpl. Ingman charged the second position he was hit by grenade fragments and a hail of fire which seriously wounded him about the face and neck and knocked him to the ground. With incredible courage and stamina, he arose instantly and, using only his rifle, killed the entire guncrew before falling unconscious from his wounds. As a result of the singular action by Cpl. Ingman the defense of the enemy was broken, his squad secured its objective, and more than 100 hostile troops abandoned their weapons and fled in disorganized retreat. Cpl. Ingman's indomitable courage, extraordinary heroism, and superb leadership reflect the highest credit on himself and are in keeping with the esteemed traditions of the infantry and the U.S. Army.”  (He was a corporal at the time of the battle, he was made a sergeant after that battle.)

Sgt. Ingman's injuries were massive. He was unconscious for 7 days. His left eye was destroyed and he had a significant brain injury. He underwent 23 surgeries over the first 2 years after his injuries. As a former military nurse I can tell you that he had to have had a very strong will to live to survive the injuries he did. That he did survive is a testament to his resiliency.

As a veteran I wanted to attend his funeral but I knew it would be very crowded between his large family and the military dignitaries attending. The church has room for about 400 people, and that is crowded. I had driven out to Oak Hill Cemetery yesterday and saw that it is a very small cemetery on a narrow country road, with very little shoulder for parking so I knew it was going to be very challenging fitting everyone in. So I didn’t attend but did stand outside the church where his funeral was. I talked with some members of the Patriot Guard riders who were there to accompany his body to the cemetery. Instead of a hearse the family had requested the use of a military jeep to transport his body. I really liked that, and I’m quite sure the family made that request because it is what Sgt. Ingman would have wanted. I did get to salute as his coffin was carried by soldiers from Fort Leonard Wood to the truck from the church. I get goose bumps and teary eyed when I salute a fallen comrade. We all should. Sgt. Einar Ingman was an American hero.

Who knew Colonel Potter would be driving the jeep! OK, it wasn't Colonel Potter, or Harry Morgan,  but it sure looked like him.