Tape played of survivor Olive saved
By Chinta Strausberg
Olive-Harvey College late Thursday held its third annual Veteranâ€™s Day Banquet where relatives of Milton Lee Olive III, the first African American to have received a Congressional Medal of Honor during the Vietnam War, school and military officials paid honor to all veterans.
Olive-Harvey College is named after 18-year-old Olive, a U.S. Army paratrooper, and Carmel Bernon Harvey, Jr., 20, who also received the coveted Congressional Medal of Honor for his acts of heroism.
Olive-Harvey College freshman Kevin Richards, won the student essay award. He walked over to see the actual Congressional Medal of Honor Olive received which was on display by Charles Milton Carter, young Miltonâ€™s cousin.
Conducting an orderly program, after the Corliss JROTC Color Guardâ€™s presentation, Nathan Poinsette, Student Government Association President, whose grandfather served in the U.S. Navy, his father spent 23-years in the Army and he has two brothers in the service, introduced Yvette Day, Student Government Association Senator.
Day introduced Jason Parks, Student Government Association Senator and veteran, who introduced the guest speaker, Lt. Colonel Maurice Rochelle, from the 404th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade, Illinois Army National Guard.
Born in Chicago, Rochelle enlisted in the Illinois Army National Guard on September 9, 1982. He graduated from Robert Lindblom Technical High School and received a Bachelor of Science degree from Western Illinois University in Macomb, Illinois. He currently attends the United States War College.
The recipient of numerous awards, Rochelle is the first African American to command the 2nd Battalion 123rd Field Artillery and in 2010 was deployed to the Sinai in Egypt where he conducted a Multinational Force and Observer (MFO) mission with 13 other countries.
After listing numerous conflicts including the infamous 911 attacks of September 11, 2001 when terrorists flew two planes into New York Cityâ€™s Twin Towers and another plane near Washington, D.C., Lt. Col. Rochelle said, â€œRegardless of the threats, risks they may face, they put their lives on the line for our freedom.
â€œOne out of 100 Americans are serving our country as part of the military that makes those in uniform a unique one percent of our nation. We come from all parts of the nationâ€¦from all walks of life. Weâ€™re men. Weâ€™re women. Weâ€™re fathers. Weâ€™re mothers. Weâ€™re sons. Weâ€™re daughters. Weâ€™re rich. Weâ€™re poor. Some of us like me somewhere in between. Weâ€™re the first. Weâ€™re uniqueâ€ and they are deployed overseas.
Their duties, Rochelle said, range from fighting wars to fighting the disasters of Mother Nature including wild fires, hurricanes, the earthquakes of Haiti, the flooding along the Mississippi River and the snowstorm of 2010 â€œthat dropped 48 feet of snow across the state.
Â â€œWeâ€™re citizen soldiers,â€ said Rochelle. â€œWeâ€™re airmen. Weâ€™re American volunteers…. We will never accept defeatâ€ and are men and women â€œwho are just doing their job.â€ â€œThey fight for our security in an unsecured world because that is what they promised to do.â€
Chinta Strausberg, cousin to Milton Lee Olive III, was the honored guest. â€œGood afternoon and thank you for allowing me to keep a promise I made to my uncle, Milton B. Olive, II, the father of Milton Lee Olive, III.â€ Young Oliveâ€™s father asked Strausberg to always remind the world what his son, his only child did for his country.
In March of 1993, the senior Olive died. Strausberg, who at that time was covering an international crime summit in Jamaica, said she will always remember her uncleâ€™s â€œdeath bed wishâ€ and will tell all who will listen about Englewoodâ€™s war hero who literally chose to pay the ultimate price to save four of his comrades.
â€œSunday, November 11th, is Veterans Day when the nation remembers the service of all U.S. military veterans including my cousin, Milton Lee Olive III, an 18-year-old Englewood teenager who willingly paid the ultimate price to save the lives of four of his comrades,â€ Strausberg told the students.
â€œSkipper was born on November 7, 1946, to my uncle, Milton B. Olive II, a supervisor with the City of Chicagoâ€™s Human Services Department, a professional photographer and a civil rights activist, and his wife, Clara, who died in childbirth. Skipper was a breech baby.
â€œMy paternal grandparents raised Skipper at 6012 S. Loomis in a building Uncle Milton had purchased.
â€œUncle Milton later married Antoinette Mainor, a Chicago School teacher. Skipper stayed mostly with my grandparents, but in high school he was not challenged and ran away to his paternal grandmotherâ€™s home in Lexington, MISS.
â€œWhen my Uncle Milton found out where Skipper was, he called and gave him three choices:Â â€˜Get a job, go back to school or join the military. The rest is history.
â€œUncle Milton feared the KKK would kill his only child. After all, it was ten-years after the murder of Emmett Till.Â Skipper chose to join the Army.
â€œA year later, Skipper was wounded. He received a Purple Heart, but when he came home, he told my grandmother he had to go back and finish his job.
â€œThe day that Skipper paid the ultimate price happened on Friday, October 22, 1965, when he spotted a live grenade during a search and destroy mission in Vietnam. He grabbed the device, placed it on his stomach and allowed it to explode.
â€œHis heroic act saved the lives of four of his comrades: John â€œHopâ€ Foster, and Lionel Hubbard, two African Americans who have since died, and retired Sgt. Vince Yrineo and Capt. James Stanford.
â€œMy uncle had his son buried in a cemetery in Lexington, Miss. which years later was desecrated by the KKK.Â Ironically, in Chicago a plaque erected in Olive Park, named after Skipper, which is located at 500 North Lake Shore Drive, was also desecrated,â€ said Strausberg.
â€œAfter the death of his son, Uncle Milton wrote a letter to President Lyndon B. Johnson.
Uncle Milton wrote:
“It is our dream and prayer that some day Asiatic’s, Europeans, Israelites, Africans, Australians, the Latinâ€™s and Americans can live in one world.
“It is our hope that in our own country, the Klansmen and Negroes, Hebrews and Catholics will sit down together in the common purpose of good will and dedication that the moral and creative intelligence of our united people will enable us to pick up the chalice of wisdom and place it upon the mountaintop of integrity; that all mankind from all the earth shall resolve to study war no more.”
â€œPersonally, I support our troops. I support legislation and efforts to provide jobs, housing and health care when they return home to us, but I, like Uncle Milton hope and pray that one day we will study war no more,â€ said Strausberg.
â€œI hope and pray that one day we will have world peace. That is my hope. That is my prayer for this Memorial Day, but in the interim, I pray Godâ€™s protection on our sons and daughters who are in Afghanistan, Iraq and other places around the world who are fighting to protect our freedom.
â€œI pray that each and every one of them returns to us whole and in good health.â€
â€œAn admitted racist before Skipper saved his life, Captain Stanford is a changed man today, but he continues to ask the question, â€œGod, why meâ€?
Strausberg then played a taped interview of Captain Stanford who detailed what happened that infamous day of October 22, 1965. Stanford admitted he was very scared perhaps more than his ranked called for. He witnessed young Olive when he picked up the grenade and placed it on his stomach.
As a result four men survived and all have great grandchildren. Two of the men, John Foster and Lionell Hubbard, who were African American, have since passed. Sgt. Vince Yrineo and Capt. Jimmy B. Stanford, both white, are still alive, but the question of why did Olive choose to pay the ultimate price on October 22, 1965 will never be answered. On Nov. 7th, he would have been 66-years old.
Afterwards, the students and faculty went outside and released balloons in memory of the veterans.
Chinta Strausberg is a Journalist of more than 33-years, a former political reporter and a current PCC Network talk show host. You can e-mail Strausberg at: Chintabernie@aol.com.