SILVERDALE, Wash. (NNS) -- Medal of Honor recipient retired Capt. Richard McCool was honored with a Medal of Honor Flag presentation Dec. 2 at Command Navy Region Northwest (CNRNW).
Rear Adm. William French, commander, Navy Region Northwest, presented the flag symbolic of the medal which have been given to Medal of Honor heroes since Congress granted such recognition Oct. 23, 2002.
"I'm honored to be here," said McCool. "I received the actual Medal Dec. 18, 1945, from President Harry S. Truman in the presence of [then] Fleet Adm. Chester Nimitz, as well as former General of the Army, Dwight D. Eisenhower."
During the ceremony, CNRNW Command Master Chief Ronald Johnson read letters of appreciation from Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Mike Mullen, as well as Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfield.
McCool earned the award for his heroic actions in World War II, when his ship, USS Landing Craft Support (L) (3) 122 came under attack from Japanese kamikaze pilots. McCool, then a lieutenant, was injured after a damaged plane crashed into the ship's conning tower.
"The closest point of the plane landed about eight feet from where I was standing," said McCool. "I was apparently unconscious for a moment after the plane had struck. When I awoke, access to escape the tower was blocked, so I jumped from the tower to the gun deck. From that moment, I don't remember all of the rescue operations that I am accredited with."
Testimony from his crew states that he was able to unite them in fighting the fire which threatened to sink the ship. McCool then saved a Sailor who was trapped in a deckhouse before finally collapsing from his injuries.
"I've only met two Medal of Honor recipients in my entire life," said French. "This is a rare honor, because there have been approximately 3,459 in the entire history of the United States Armed Forces, which shows the importance of being recognized for these accomplishments."
Some of the gatherers left with the feeling that they had just met a hero.
"I was really interested in meeting him and hearing his story," said Master-At-Arms 2nd Class (SW) Ronnie Ray. "This was a good experience and I am glad that I got this opportunity."
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