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BYU Veterans Day observance to feature WWII Medal of Honor recipient Nov. 9

On Friday, Nov. 9, the Brigham Young University Saints at War Project will host a special Veteran’s Day lecture featuring George Whalen, the only living Utahn and member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to receive the Medal of Honor for his service in World War II.

The lecture will be held on Friday at 11 a.m. in the Joseph Smith Building Auditorium. Whalen will share the story of his service during World War II, including the events surrounding his heroic actions as a medic in the Marine Corps that earned him the United States’ highest military commendation. The public is welcome to attend.

Whalen received the Medal of Honor from President Harry S. Truman in 1945.

At Iwo Jima, Wahlen’s unit suffered the highest killed-in-action ratio of any company in Marine Corps history. As a corpsman, his job was to give medical aid to the wounded beyond the lines. Wahlen stayed on the battlefield saving others after he had been hit several times, preserving the lives of many of his comrades.

“Wahlen’s story is one of the most incredible accounts of bravery and heroism in U.S. military history,” said Robert Freeman, director of BYU’s Saints at War Project, who hails Whalen as a “living hero.”

However, Whalen was so haunted by memories of the war that he hid the Medal of Honor and told no one about it. Even his wife didn’t know he was a national war hero until years after they were married.

For nearly six decades, he tried to forget Iwo Jima and its painful memories — any talk of him being a hero made him cringe. But he recently broke his silence and told the stories in his biography, “The Quiet Hero.”

“To listen to such history from the time of World War II is becoming a rare opportunity,” said Freeman, who noted that veterans of World War II are dying at a rate of more than 1,000 per day. “We should all seize the moment and participate in the tribute to those who have done so much to preserve the freedoms we all enjoy. It is a real treat to have a man of this caliber, especially on a Veteran’s Day weekend.”

The Saints at War Project invites anyone with experiences to share from any of the wars of the 20th and 21st centuries to contact them.

For more information, call (801) 422-2484, e-mail saintsatwar@byu.edu or visit saintsatwar.org.

Writer: Marissa Ballantyne

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