VFW Donates $70,000 to Park University’s Valor Medals Review Project
‘We have a real opportunity to help make history right here’
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (November 6, 2019) – The Veterans of Foreign Wars National Commander William “Doc” Schmitz presented a $70,000 donation to Park University President Dr. Greg Gunderson today in support of the university’s research initiative into the awarding or denying of World War I military service medals based on possible racial bias.
More than 367,000 African Americans fought during World War I, yet during that time not one was awarded the Medal of Honor, the highest possible military decoration awarded by the U.S. government to those distinguished by an act of conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of life above and beyond the call of duty. Historians, scholars and researchers believe systematic racism may be to blame, thus prompting the Valor Medal Review project.
The project is being conducted by Park University’s George S. Robb Centre for the Study of the Great War, the Valor Medals Review Task Force, and in conjunction with the Foundation for the Commemoration of the World Wars on behalf of the U.S. World War I Centennial Commission.
In September 2018 the task force began the arduous research task of collecting and reviewing archival records, and genealogical and descendant outreach with the goal to provide the “state-of-play” and generate recommendations for Congress or the Department of Defense to actualize.
Park University pushed for legislation included in the pending National Defense Authorization Act which would require the Department of Defense to execute a systematic review of the valor medals awarded to African American service members, and those of other minority groups who were potentially denied medals due to racial bias.
Thus far, researchers have identified 70 African Americans, 203 Jewish Americans, 18 Native Americans, three Alaskan Natives and three Hispanic Americans as recipients of the Distinguished Service Cross/Navy Cross or the Croix de Guerre with Palm, the second highest military decoration awarded for extraordinary heroism.
“The VFW is proud to support this important initiative,” said Schmitz. “These men served their country unequivocally and so their recognition should also come without condition or exception. We have a real opportunity to help make history right here.”
“We are so grateful to the VFW for their partnership,” said Gunderson. “Park is an institution that takes pride in our enduring relationship with the military; it is our honor and obligation to help ensure that all service members’ valiant acts are appropriately recognized. This significant gift from the VFW will go a long way in moving forward the historic work that is happening through the Valor Medals Review.”
About the VFW: The Veterans of Foreign Wars of the U.S. is the nation’s largest and oldest major war veterans organization. Founded in 1899, the congressionally-chartered VFW is comprised entirely of eligible veterans and military service members from the active, Guard and Reserve forces. With more than 1.6 million VFW and Auxiliary members located in 6,200 Posts worldwide, the nonprofit veterans service organization is proud to proclaim “NO ONE DOES MORE FOR VETERANS” than the VFW, which is dedicated to veterans’ service, legislative advocacy, and military and community service programs. For more information or to join, visit our website at vfw.org.
About Park University: Founded in 1875 in Parkville, Mo., a suburb of Kansas City, Park University is a comprehensive, independent institution that is a national leader in higher education. In 2000, Park achieved university status and currently serves 16,172 students at 42 campuses in 22 states and online, including campuses in Parkville, Independence and Kansas City, Mo.; Lenexa, Kan., Austin and El Paso, Texas; Barstow and Victorville, Calif.; Gilbert, Ariz.; and at 33 military installations across the country. Serving an ethnically diverse student population and non-traditional adult learners is central to Park’s educational mission. Even in its first year, Park University enrolled women students as well as men, something that was unusual at the time; and two of the original 17 students were Native Americans. Park was also an early integrator when it welcomed African-American students to live in Park’s residence halls in the 1950s. Park maintains a longstanding relationship with the U.S. military for which it has been recognized as one of the largest providers of online undergraduate education to military learners worldwide. Since 2009, Park has received international recognition each year by various military-related publications as a top military friendly college/university. In addition, Park is among the top-ranked “Best for Vets” private college/university in the country as determined by Military Times magazine. www.park.edu