Organization presents Medal of Honor recipient with special plaque

BALDWIN — Before Sunday’s Blessing of the Bikes events took place at the Baldwin Municipal Airport, a special presentation was held to honor one of Lake County’s most notable residents.

Medal of Honor recipient Duane E. Dewey was presented with a Purple Heart Plaque by We The People Giving Back, an organization dedicated to honoring veterans, Gold Star families and fallen police, fire and EMS personnel. Dewey was awarded the Medal of Honor by President Eisenhower for bravery in the Korean War, and Sunday’s Purple Heart Plaque was presented to Dewey in recognition of his service.

To present the plaque, We The People Giving Back President and C.E.O., Doug Pickel, took the stage to introduce Dewey. As Pickel began his statements, Dewey made his way through the crowd of thousands in a procession that included the Michigan State Police, members of the group Rolling Thunder, Gold Star mothers and United States Naval Sea Cadet from Grand Rapids.

In his introduction, Pickel read from the citation Dewey received when he was awarded the Medal of Honor.

The citation described how Dewey went “above and beyond the call of duty” while serving as a gunner in a machine gun platoon in Company E, 2nd Battalion, 5th Marines, 1st Marine Division Reinforced near Panmunjom, Korea on April 16, 1952.

While Dewey and his assistant gunner were receiving medical treatment for wounds they received during an attack at night, an enemy grenade landed near their position. Although in immense pain, Dewey pulled the corpsman to the ground, shouted a warning to the others around him and smothered the grenade with his body. Dewey absorbed the full force of the explosion and saved those around him.

“His indomitable courage, outstanding initiative and valiant efforts in behalf of others in the face of almost certain death reflect the highest credit upon Cpl. Dewey and enhance the finest tradition of the United States Naval service,” Pickel read from the citation.

Dewey is one of two Michigan Marine Corps members to receive the Medal of Honor, and he was the first Korean War Marine to receive the award from Eisenhower, Pickel added.

Before presenting the Purple Heart Plaque, Pickel thanked Para-Dice Motorcycle Club for their work with veterans and organizing the Blessing of the Bikes.

“When a biker group goes out that far it needs to be recognized,” he said.

The Purple Heart Plaque, made by Pickel, takes 60 hours to complete, consists of Maple wood from Michigan, Padauk wood from Africa, Zebra wood from Africa, Pommali wood from Africa and Purple Heart Wood from South America and is coated with a guitar lacquer specially made by Gibson Guitar Corporation. The plaque is presented to Purple Heart veterans and Gold Star families.

“These plaques are authorized through through the Military Order of the Purple Heart and through the Department of Defense directly,” Pickel said. “Being a civilian, after I make these plaques, I am not allowed to touch them.”

A Vietnam veteran presented Dewey with the plaque, and he also revived a specially made Medal of Honor quilt.

“It was a pleasant surprise to be able to be involved with the giving of the Purple Heart (Plaque) to Mr. Dewey,” said Mark Bird, Para-Dice Motorcycle Club president. “It kind of rounded out the weekend.”

For more information on We The People Giving Back, visit wethepeoplegivingback.com.