FORT BENNING, Ga. — In mid-June, the Maneuver Center of Excellence needed a volunteer to pick up Staff Sgt. Curtis F. Shoup’s Medal of Honor in Pittsburgh and deliver it to the National Infantry Museum. Up stepped Command Sgt. Maj. Brian Hamm.
The 2nd Battalion, 19th Infantry Regiment command sergeant major made the three-day trip this month, receiving the medal at the 87th Infantry Division’s annual reunion banquet. He said the experience changed his entire outlook on World War II veterans and the nation’s highest military honor.
“When you get to hear their stories in person — a lot of these guys are dying off — it’s humbling,” Hamm said Thursday. “It puts a lump in your throat. It really touches you.
“I have a whole different perspective on this now, because you can’t get that kind of human interaction out of a museum. Great guys — great, great people.”
Shoup served with I Company, 346th Infantry Regiment, 87th Infantry Division, on the European front. His actions occurred Jan. 7, 1945, near Tillet, Belgium, but he was killed in the battle and posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor.
Hamm flew to Pittsburgh on Aug. 20 and spoke about the medal’s significance and history the following night at the banquet. More than 200 people attended the 62nd veterans reunion for the 87th Infantry Division Legacy Association.
During the transfer ceremony, Hamm was handed the medal by World War II vet Mitch Kaidy, who fought with the division while assigned to D Company, 345th Infantry Regiment.
“What a huge honor. Who else gets to do something like this in their lifetime?” Hamm said. “For me, other than receiving the Medal of Honor myself, to be entrusted with a responsibility like that is very, very flattering.”
Shoup’s nephew, Curtis Arata of Tyngsboro, Mass., had been in possession of the decoration but donated it to the 87th’s Legacy Association, which arranged for it to be gifted to the National Infantry Museum, along with his Purple Heart, Bronze Star, Combat Infantryman Badge and other service medals.
On Thursday, Hamm presented the entire package to Zachary Frank Hanner, director of the National Infantry Museum’s military staff.
“More U.S. Infantry Soldiers have earned the Medal of Honor in our nation’s history than any other branch of our armed forces. So we are always proud to be entrusted with a documented Medal of Honor,” Hanner said. “The Medal of Honor speaks volumes on the bravery of the recipient but also on the bravery that is required of all the members of our armed forces. May our great republic always be defended by courageous patriots like Staff Sergeant Curtis F. Shoup.”
Ironically, Hamm’s next assignment is with 2nd Battalion, 87th Infantry Division, at Fort Drum, N.Y. He’s set to become the unit’s command sergeant major in the summer of 2012.