Students and adults across the area gathered to honor America’s veterans on Monday, but a patriotic ceremony that took place in Milford School was particularly poignant.
Members of the Milford Town Council, representatives of the Indiana State Police, State Rep. Rebecca Kubacki, state members of the American Legion and others paid homage during the hour and 15 minute-long morning event to a noble Milford resident whose bravery in battle during World War II cost him his life.
Harry J. Michael was born and raised two miles west of downtown Milford. He attended Milford High School and played for the school’s basketball team. Even in those days, teammate Bob Brown remembered, Michael had a reputation for being determined.
“I still remember one time during practice, when we both went full speed for the ball and barrelled into one another. Boy, I learned never to do that again,” Brown recalled during the ceremony.
After graduation the farmer’s son studied veterinary medicine at Purdue University. Then joined the Army, where he quickly became known for his leadership and bravery in combat.
On March 14, 1945, one day after his 23rd birthday and also one day after leading a frontal assault against Germany’s Siegfried line that captured over 40 German soldiers and SS troops, Michael was taken down by a sniper’s bullet. The young second lieutenant was posthumously awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor by President Harry Truman for his actions.
During World War II over 407,000 men lost their lives. But only 464 uniformed personnel receive the prestigious Medal of Honor.
ISP Trooper Kyle Dukes, also a Milford resident, said Monday that he felt called to honor Michael’s sacrifice. Several months ago, with the cooperation and support of the town council and of Rep. Kubacki, Dukes initiated an effort to create and install two road signs that identify Milford as Michael’s birthplace.
As he recounted the emotional story of Michael’s final days for the student audience, Dukes asked them to remember Michael as someone who was just like them but became “a true American hero.”
Hundreds of participants filled the bleachers at Milford school for the unveiling of one of the two identical signs during Monday’s ceremony. Performing the honor of revealing them for the first time was Phil Beer, retired Army soldier and a high school friend of Michael’s.
Several Michael family members were also in attendance Monday. Rich Rhodes, Michael’s nephew, and his great-niece Hannah Rhodes presented a poem that they wrote which chronicled Michael’s upbringing and his legendary military career. Rep. Kubacki acknowledged his bravery as well, and thanked all of the veterans who were present for their service.