Colorado State University will honor four CSU alumni who have had the prestigious distinction of receiving the Medal of Honor. Peter C. Lemon will be honored along with the late George Watson, William Edward Adams and Jon Edward Swanson on Saturday, Oct. 24 at halftime of the CSU football game.
The Medal of Honor is the highest military decoration awarded by the U.S. government. It is bestowed on a member of the United States Armed Forces who distinguishes himself or herself “at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty while engaged in action against an enemy of the United States.”
The four Medal of Honor recipients will be honored at halftime of the CSU football game by Colorado Gov. Bill Ritter (CSU ’78), CSU System Board of Governors Chairman Patrick McConathy, CSU System Chancellor Joe Blake, CSU President Tony Frank, Maj. Channing Moose, CSU professor of Military Science and Col. Jennifer Pickett, CSU professor of Aerospace Studies.
“Since 1861, more than 3,400 Medals of Honor have been bestowed on our nation’s bravest men and women. At this weekend’s home football game, CSU has the privilege of honoring four of its alumni who have been presented the Medal of Honor. The gallantry of these men is a reminder of the sacrifices our military make every day to protect our nation,” Blake said.
Lemon and the families and representatives of Watson, Swanson and Adams will each receive an American flag that has flown over the state capitol and a Colorado State University flag that has flown over the CSU campus. The flags have been prepared by CSU Army and Air Force ROTC.
“We are enormously proud and grateful to CSU’s graduates who have earned the Medal of Honor, and it’s important that we continue to recognize and pay tribute to their extraordinary achievements,” Frank said. “Their history is a part of our university history, and their example of courage, service and selflessness can be a source of pride and inspiration for generations to come. We are especially pleased that Peter Lemon and the families of Jon Swanson and William Adams will be able to join us for this special commemoration.”
The Medal of Honor recipients:
George Watson was a 1942 graduate of Colorado A&M. During World War II, Pvt. Watson was on board a ship that was attacked by enemy bombers. Instead of seeking to save himself, he remained in the water helping soldiers who could not swim reach the safety of the raft. Exhausted, Watson drowned in the waters that day. His actions, daring leadership and self-sacrifice earned him the Medal of Honor. The U.S. Navy named an entire class of ships in honor of Pvt. Watson. Watson was the first black solider to receive the Distinguished Service Cross during World War II.
William Edward Adams was a major in the U.S. Army who was killed during the Vietnam War. Adams graduated from Colorado State University in 1962. He distinguished himself on May 25, 1971, while serving as a helicopter pilot in the Republic of Vietnam. He volunteered to fly a lightly armed helicopter to evacuate three seriously wounded soldiers from a small base under heavy enemy fire. After successfully recovering the three wounded soldiers, his helicopter was struck and seriously damaged by enemy anti-aircraft fire. Adams regained control of the crippled aircraft and bravely attempted a controlled landing. Despite his valiant efforts, the helicopter exploded. His actions that day earned him the Medal of Honor.
Jon Edward Swanson was a U.S. Army helicopter pilot during the Vietnam War. Capt. Swanson attended CSU, class of 1965, and was a member of the Army’s Reserve Officers’ Training Corps. He distinguished himself by acts of bravery on Feb. 26, 1971, while flying a helicopter in support of combat operations in Cambodia. To pinpoint the enemy’s precise positions, Swanson flew at treetop level in heavy enemy territory, making his aircraft a vulnerable target. He then came to the aid of the unit he was supporting when it came under fire. After destroying five enemy bunkers and out of heavy ammunition, he marked the remaining target with smoke for other friendly forces to engage. Swanson’s aircraft sustained several hits, crippling it, but he continued to fly until his aircraft exploded in mid-air. His actions were recognized more than 30 years later with the posthumous Medal of Honor by President George W. Bush in 2002.
Peter C. Lemon is one of the youngest surviving recipients of the Medal of Honor. He received the award for his actions on April 1, 1970, while serving during the Vietnam War. He attended CSU after his service, graduating in 1979. Sgt. Lemon distinguished himself during the defense of Fire Support Base Illingworth. Under heavy enemy attack, he engaged a large number of enemy fighters with machine gun and rifle fire until both weapons malfunctioned. He fought on, using grenades and hand-to-hand combat to fend off the enemy attack. Despite wounds from an exploding grenade, Lemon carried an injured comrade to an aid station and was wounded a second time by enemy fire. Disregarding personal injury, he continued to fight until he had driven the enemy from the position. He stood atop an embankment fully exposed to enemy fire and continued to fight until he collapsed from multiple wounds and exhaustion. He refused medical evacuation until his more seriously wounded comrades had been evacuated. His gallantry and extraordinary heroism earned him the Medal of Honor at age 19.