Luther Story, who posthumously received the Medal of Honor for his remarkable heroism during the Korean War, was finally laid to rest in his native Georgia during a heavily attended Memorial Day ceremony featuring taps and a helicopter flyover.
Previously buried as an unknown soldier at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific in Honolulu, Story was reinterred at Andersonville National Cemetery after the military identified his remains, using DNA, dental and anthropological analyses. He was reported missing 73 years ago following a fierce firefight in South Korea.
Judy Wade, a niece who was born four years after Story was killed, thanked the hundreds of people, including Gov. Brian Kemp and U.S. Rep. Sanford Bishop, who attended what she called her uncle’s “homecoming.” He was born in Buena Vista and attended Americus High School.
“I know that if Luther were here, he would think this was too much — that what he did was what anybody else would have done in the same situation. I’m not so sure of that,” said Wade, who supplied family DNA samples for the analyses of Story’s remains. “I don’t believe everybody would be that way. I know that I don’t think I could do it.”
Wade asked the large crowd to share her uncle’s story so others would “feel the same thing that I do — proud that he is home. And I can feel your love, all of you, for him.”
“He really is a soldier of the people,” Wade said. “He is yours. He is not mine. He is yours, every one of you. He belongs to you.”
Story received the Medal of Honor, the nation’s highest military award for valor, for his actions in September 1950. Fellow 9th Infantry soldiers who survived the battle submitted affidavits in support of him receiving recognition. They say their unit suffered heavy casualties and was in danger of being overrun by overwhelming numbers of enemy troops armed with automatic weapons, mortars and artillery.
Story, the sworn statements say, picked up a machine gun from a wounded comrade and killed or wounded an estimated 100 enemy troops advancing toward them. He also threw grenades at an enemy truck towing an ammunition trailer, destroying both and killing about 25 more foes. Seriously wounded in the firefight and dying, Story stayed behind to cover his fellow soldiers as they withdrew to a rice field.
Cpl. Charles Courtney said he asked Story about withdrawing.
“Hell no, I’m staying,” was the response.
“Pfc. Story was the bravest soldier I ever knew,” Courtney said in his affidavit.
When he was last seen alive, Story was “firing every weapon available and fighting off another hostile assault.”
1st Sgt. Francis J. Tucciarone, who served as Story’s platoon sergeant, said Story “realized that he was sacrificing his life.” Tucciarone added that Story would “never be forgotten by his men.”
Pfc. Marl Lane, who became lost behind enemy lines after the battle, also submitted an affidavit.
“I owe my life to Story,” he said.
Maj. Gen. Thomas Carden Jr., Georgia’s adjutant general, underscored those eyewitness accounts as he spoke about Story’s heroism on Monday.
“Today is a physical demonstration that America never forgets our heroes,” Carden said. “By the grace and mercy of God, most Americans have never been that close to death at the hands of an enemy. While we can’t see it right now, make no mistake, we have all benefited from the covering fire that Cpl. Luther Story bravely provided on Sept. 1, 1950.”
“Cpl. Story has left us a legacy that we must honor and uphold if we hope to remain the most free and prosperous nation on earth,” Carden added. “I’m thankful that our nation has never forgotten Cpl. Story and I pray that we never will. There is a lesson in his sacrifice and one that our nation needs now as much as we have ever needed it before.”
Gen. Omar Bradley presented the Medal of Honor to Story’s family at the Pentagon in 1951. Story was also posthumously promoted from private first class to corporal and awarded a Purple Heart.
Capt. Changgyu Lee, a naval attache from the South Korean Embassy in Washington who attended the ceremony Monday, called Story’s bravery “amazing” and said the South Korean government appreciates his sacrifice. Adding that his own father served in the Korean War, Changgyu said of Story, “I want to express my gratitude.”
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