Medal of Honor recipient’s family wants his medal back from collector
Just after Memorial Day, American Wire reported on the pending sale of a Congressional Medal of Honor that belonged to Pvt. Thomas Kelly, a soldier who won the nation’s highest military award for saving wounded comrades in Cuba during the decisive battle in the Spanish-American War.
A German auction house had obtained Kelly’s medal, and Sen. Ted Cruz was trying to stop its sale.
Now, there is an update.
On Sunday, The Washington Times reported that Hermann Historica, the Munich-based auctioneer, sold it for $15,000 to an unidentified private collector. Unlike in the U.S., which bans such transactions, German law allows sales of military honors. According to the Times, Hermann Historica ignored the pleas of U.S. diplomats to spare the medal out of respect of the family’s wishes.
Kelly’s medal disappeared after he died in 1920, and his descendants had no idea what happened to it until the Times reported on the auction. Their only link was a 1973 Defense Department document attesting to the fact that he had received it.
Kelly’s family is now fighting to get it back.
“Our family believes deeply that Thomas‘ medal belongs on U.S. soil and with the American people he fought for,” Kasey LeClercq, Kelly’s great-grandaughter, who lives near Seattle, told the Times. “He was a proud Irish American and served most of his life protecting our country.”
“I want to know more, and I want my kids to know more,” LeClerq added. “This is in our blood.”
The Times noted the family had asked Hermann Hisotrica to forward their information to the collector in the hope of reaching a deal to return it to them. Yet they don’t know if that happened.
Bernhard Pacher, the director of Hermann Historica, told Stars & Stripes that Cruz’s efforts to block the sale increased interest in it, and ultimately its price.
It sold for triple the auctioneer’s original bid request of $5,000.
“I guarantee you, we are going to be flooded now with offers to auction off a Medal of Honor,” Pacher told Stars & Stripes. “You’ll achieve the opposite of what you wanted with that.”
Perhaps, but Sen. Cruz wants to stop that.
The Texas Republican intends to file a bill that would outlaw overseas sales of Medals of Honor, and attempt to retrieve any that have already been sold outside the U.S., according to the Times.
“Medals of Honor represent the best of America and they belong with the families of the heroes who earned them or in a museum for Americans to honor — not with rich collectors in Germany,” Cruz said.
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