Memorial Day is a national holiday and a day of remembrance of those who have died while serving our country in the armed forces. Originally called Decoration Day, it was a day to visit the cemetery and decorate the graves of fallen soldiers. Now it is a day to honor those who gave the ultimate sacrifice – their lives.
Michael J Perkins was a war hero who won the nation’s highest award for bravery, the Congressional Medal of Honor. A South Boston native, he lived on West Seventh Street until he enlisted in the Army in 1916. While stationed in France, Perkins was involved in combat with German Troops in 1918. With a knife in one hand and a grenade in the other, he crawled alone to the area where German soldiers fired machine guns. Perkins single-handedly killed and wounded the enemy, subdued seven machine guns and took 25 prisoners. Suffering an injury to his arm, he was ordered to the infirmary. The ambulance that was taking Perkins to the hospital was struck by a shell and all occupants were killed instantly.
In 1920, as part of the St. Patrick’s Day Parade ceremony, the intersection of Broadway and Dorchester Street was dedicated to Michael J. “Mickey” Perkins. You can learn more about Mickey Perkins here.
Two more hometown heroes to remember
Citation for Award of the Navy Cross to Lance Corporal John Caldwell Calhoun
For extraordinary heroism while serving as an Automatic Rifleman with Combined Action Platoon H – 6, Third Combined Action Group, III Marine Amphibious Force, in the Republic of Vietnam on 7 January 1968. Corporal Calhoun’s platoon, while defending an outpost in Nuoc Ngot Village, Thua Thien Province suddenly came under a heavy volume of mortar and rocket fire, followed by an aggressive assault by a numerically superior Viet Cong force. The enemy quickly seized the northern wall of the compound as the Marines and Popular Forces soldiers moved to the sandbagged southern wall. During the ensuing fire fight, the Marines became dangerously low of ammunition. Realizing the seriousness of the situation, Corporal Calhoun unhesitatingly ran across 30 meters of fire-swept terrain to obtain the ammunition and deliver it to his comrades. Ignoring the danger around him, he repeatedly crossed the hazardous area, resupplying the defenders, until he was mortally wounded. His heroic and timely actions inspired all who observed him and were instrumental in repelling the enemy force. By his conspicuous valor, strong initiative and complete dedication to duty, Corporal Calhoun upheld the highest traditions of the United States Marine Corps and of the United States Naval Service. He gallantly gave his life for his country.
Awarded posthumously for actions during the Korean War
The President of the United States of America takes pride in presenting the Navy Cross (Posthumously) to Corporal Dennis William Toland (MCSN: 1123138), United States Marine Corps, for extraordinary heroism in connection with military operations against an armed enemy of the United Nations while serving as a Radio Operator of a Forward Observer Team of Company C, First Battalion, Seventh Marines, FIRST Marine Division (Reinforced), in action against enemy aggressor forces in the Republic of Korea on 28 May 1951. Courageously refusing to return to the medical aid station to be treated for serious wounds that he received while en route to a forward observation post during a strong enemy attack, Corporal Toland ingeniously utilized field expedients in repairing his damaged radio and restored it to operation. Although considerably weakened from loss of blood, he steadfastly refused to seek cover and, braving continued hostile fire, succeeded in transmitting vital fire mission commands for the forward observer, thereby aiding materially in bringing repeated heavy artillery barrages to bear on the advancing enemy. When hostile forces threatened to penetrate the position during the action, he boldly seized a weapon and engaged the enemy, inflicting heavy casualties and assisting materially in preventing a break-through. Aggressively and boldly manning his gun throughout the fire fight, he was mortally wounded in the closing minutes of the battle. His indomitable fighting spirit and steadfast devotion to duty reflect the highest credit upon Corporal Toland and the United States Naval Service. He gallantly gave his life for his country.
On Memorial Day we thank those who have made the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom. We thank you for your courage and bravery.
A special thank you to Kevin Conroy for his help with this piece!