On March 25, our country observes National Medal of Honor Day, a solemn annual recognition of more than 3,500 Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines whose service to our nation has been distinguished through extraordinary heroism and sacrifice. It was on this date in 1863 that the first Medal of Honor, our nation’s highest military award, was presented to Private Jacob Parrott for his part in the “The Great Locomotive Chase” that ended just outside of Chattanooga. Ultimately, 19 of the 24 members of Andrews’ Raiders were awarded the Medal of Honor for their incredible acts of valor on April 12, 1862.
In that same year, the Chattanooga area would become hallowed ground where 33 additional Medals of Honor were awarded – from the blood-soaked fields of Chickamauga to Missionary Ridge to the stirring site of the Battle Above the Clouds on Lookout Mountain. These acts of valor — also known as the First Medals — created an important heritage that has been entrusted to Chattanooga to preserve as the Birthplace of the Medal of Honor.