State Sen. Julie Slama reflects on the heroic actions of a Congressional Medal of Honor recipient and calls on Nebraskans to observe Memorial Day and a national moment of remembrance at 3 p.m.
Here is the senator’s column:
As Memorial Day approaches, it’s imperative to reflect upon the sacrifices made by the brave men and women who have given their lives in service of our country. This week’s column is dedicated to a Nebraska hero: Medal of Honor Recipient, Army Combat Medic, and Lincoln Native, Charles Hagemeister, passed away on May 19, 2021 at the age of 74 in Leavenworth, Kan.
Hagemeister was born in Lincoln on Aug. 21, 1946, and grew up in our state. He attended Lincoln’s Southeast High School and was drafted into the United States Army in 1966 while on break from the University of Nebraska at Lincoln.
Hagemeister was awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions on March 20, 1967.
Medals of Honor are awarded for “conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of life above and beyond the call of duty.” Hagemeister absolutely fulfilled this requirement, and his Medal of Honor citation best explains the events of that day.
“While conducting combat operations against a hostile force, Sp5c. Hagemeister’s platoon suddenly came under heavy attack from three sides by an enemy force occupying well-concealed, fortified positions and supported by machine guns and mortars. Seeing two of his comrades seriously wounded in the initial action, Sp5c. Hagemeister, unhesitatingly and with total disregard for his safety, raced through the deadly hail of enemy fire to provide them medical aid... Attempting to evacuate the seriously wounded soldiers, Sp5c. Hagemeister was taken under fire at close range by an enemy sniper.
Realizing that the lives of his fellow soldiers depended on his actions, Sp5c. Hagemeister seized a rifle from a fallen comrade, killed the sniper, three other enemy soldiers who were attempting to encircle his position, and silenced an enemy machine gun that covered the area with deadly fire. Unable to remove the wounded to a less exposed location and aware of the enemy efforts to isolate his unit, he dashed through the fusillade of fire to secure help from a nearby platoon. Returning with help, he placed men in positions to cover his advance as he moved to evacuate the wounded forward of his location. These efforts successfully completed, he then moved to the other flank and evacuated additional wounded men despite the fact that his every move drew fire from the enemy. Sp5c. Hagemeister’s repeated heroic and selfless actions at the risk of his life saved the lives of many of his comrades and inspired their actions in repelling the enemy assault. Sp5c. Hagemeister’s indomitable courage was in the highest traditions of the Armed Forces and reflect great credit upon himself.
President Lyndon B. Johnson presented Hagemeister with the Medal of Honor in the Pentagon on May 14, 1968, nearly a year after the events took place. Hagemeister continued to serve our nation until his retirement in 1990, after achieving the rank of lieutenant colonel. After his retirement, he served on the board of the Congressional Medal of Honor Society.
Fortunately, Charles Hagemeister survived the events of March 20, 1967, and the entirety of the Vietnam War. He got to go on and live a long, fulfilling life. Not only that, he risked his life to make sure his comrades got to live long, fulfilling lives as well. However, not all of our servicemen and women make it back home.
Many Americans see Memorial Day as a three-day weekend spent barbecuing, but we need to remember the importance of this holiday. It is a day to honor and extend gratitude to the men and women who died while serving our country. There are many ways that we can honor the lost, from local events hosted across District 1 to a simple moment of prayer. Each year on Memorial Day, a national moment of remembrance takes place at 3 p.m. local time. At this time, Americans, wherever they are, can take a minute of silence to remember those that paid the ultimate price to protect our nation. Wherever you may be this Memorial Day, please remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom.
As always, I welcome your input on issues important to you. Follow along on my Facebook and Twitter pages, both entitled “Senator Julie Slama” for more updates, or contact me directly at Senator Julie Slama, District 1 State Capitol, PO Box 94604, Lincoln NE 68509-4604; telephone: 402-471-2733; email: firstname.lastname@example.org.