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Navy Medal of Honor Recipient Laid to Rest at Arlington

21 December 2023

ARLINGTON NATIONAL CEMETERY — Distinguished World War II Veteran and Medal of Honor recipient Seaman 1st Class James Richard Ward was laid to rest with the solemnity befitting his heroism in a ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery, Dec. 21, 2023.

Ward, from Springfield, Ohio, was accorded full military honors, ensuring his enduring legacy as a symbol of valor and sacrifice.

“Today is one that will stay with our family. My mom and grandparents would be pleased with this honor of James,” said Richard Hanna, nephew of Ward. “We should all honor those who have served and are serving at home and abroad.” 

Ward was assigned to USS Oklahoma (BB 37) when it was sunk during the attack on Pearl Harbor Dec. 7, 1941. He was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor for remaining onboard and guiding his shipmates to safety with a flashlight.

Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Lisa Franchetti, Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy James Honea, and other distinguished guests joined Ward’s family members at the Thursday ceremony.

Franchetti presented Ward’s family with a replacement Medal of Honor medal, Medal of Honor Flag, and a copy of the citation prior to the ceremony.

“On December 7th, 1941, our Sailors and Marines displayed unmatched resilience and heroism at Pearl Harbor," said Franchetti. "Seaman 1st Class Ward is among these exceptional heroes and his actions that fateful Sunday morning are an inspiration to each of us. I am honored to see him properly laid to rest after these 82 years.”

Ward was transported through the cemetery on a hearse-led caisson accompanied by the Old Guard and Navy Band. Four F/A-18 Super Hornets assigned to the “Gladiators” of Strike Fighter Squadron 106 performed a flyover at the beginning of the ceremony. The firing party conducted three volleys of fire and casket bearers folded the American flag as a Navy Band bugler concluded the service with the traditional song of “Taps.” Vice Adm. Johnny Wolfe Jr., Director for Strategic Systems Programs, presented the flag to the Ward family.

“We are grateful to the Navy and the persistence of all the numerous civilian and military personnel who were involved in the recovery and identification of James,” said Hanna. “Our family is honored to be able to finally bring James to Arlington National Cemetery, his deserved resting place. The attention to detail involved in his memorial from the first day we were notified, to the personnel assigned to our family’s needs, has been overwhelming.”

A total of 16 service members, ranging in rank from Seaman to Rear Adm., were awarded Medals of Honor related to events at Pearl Harbor; 11 posthumously. Ward’s family was presented the Medal of Honor in March 1942, along with a letter from President Franklin D. Roosevelt and Secretary of the Navy Frank Knox. The Edsall-class destroyer escort ship USS. J. Richard Ward (DE 243) was named in his honor, commissioned July 5, 1943.

In 2003 the USS Oklahoma Project set out to identify the Sailors' remains that were lost with the Nevada-class battleship. Of the 394 service members originally deemed unaccounted-for, 361 Sailors and Marines have since been individually identified. On Feb. 22, 2022, the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA) announced that it had positively identified Ward’s remains on Aug. 19, 2021. As a symbol that Ward had been accounted for, a rosette now adorns his name in the Courts of the Missing at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific.

Over 400,000 Veterans are buried at Arlington National Cemetery, with over 8,000 being World War II Veterans and over 400 being Medal of Honor Recipients.


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