- Mr. Speaker, Sergeant York is one of the mostdecorated American heroes of the 20th century.
- A Congressional Medal of Honor recipient, he is best remembered for his role in a battalion to capture German positions during an attack in 1918 in the Chatel-Chehery region of France on the war's Western Front. A German machine gun fire attack resulted in the loss of numerous Americans, leaving York in charge of the seven remaining soldiers. Leaving his men under cover, Sergeant York ventured out to silence the enemy fire.
- As he describes in his diary:
Those machine guns were spitting fire and cutting down the
undergrowth all around me something awful. There were over
thirty of them in continuous action, and all I could do was
touch the Germans off just as fast as I could. I was sharp
shooting . . . All the time I kept yelling at them to come
down. I didn't want to kill any more than I had to. But it
was they or I. And I was giving them the best I had.
- York's courageous assault resulted in 20 enemy casualties and 132 captures.
- The young soldier was immediately promoted and awarded the Distinguished Service Cross. Later, he was awarded the Medal of Honor.
- The citation describes his deeds as ``fearless'', ``daring'' and
- But while the description is fair, in many ways York's story is notjust one of the battlefield and it is worth reflecting on York the man, not the myth.
- A person of deep Christian faith, Sergeant York was converted--or as he put it ``saved''--in his late teens by the Reverend M. H. Russell, known in Tennessee as the ``evangelist of the mountains''.
- While in his youth he admits to being inclined to sin, since joining the Church of Christ in Christian Union, York found more righteous pursuits, teaching children scripture and singing in the choir.
- ``I am a good deal like Paul,'' York wrote in his diary. ``The things I loved, I now hate.''
- When, in 1917, the United States heard the call of its allies and joined the war effort, the young churchgoer and singer received a note requiring him to report to his local board.
- Despite rising to be a military hero, York was unsure whether the war was just, torn between the pacifism of his faith and patriotism for his
- ``I was bothered a plenty as to whether it was right or wrong,'' he
- wrote. ``I knew that if it was right, everything would be all right.''
- ``And I also knew that if it was wrong and we were only fighting for a bunch of foreigners, it would all be wrong. And I prayed and prayed.
- I prayed two whole days and a night out on the mountainside. And I received my assurance direct from God . . . that it was all right, and that I was coming back.''
- Well Sergeant York did come back and the people of Tennessee should be very pleased.
- Following the war, York returned to the region of his boyhood in the Wolf River valley of Tennessee and committed himself to public service.
- A national figure upon his return, he turned down offers for endorsements, public appearances and even the movie rights to his life, instead turning attention to the needs of his local community.
- He lobbied the Tennessee State Legislature for funds for education and infrastructure and in 1926 established a school in Fentress County, which still stands today.
- When asked how he wanted to be remembered, Sergeant York responded simply: ``For improving education in Tennessee''.
- We remember him for much more than that today--for his patriotic service of his nation and God.
- And that's just the way it is.