This week the Wheaton edition of the Chicago Tribune related the story of Washington and Lee alumnus James Howard Monroe, of the Class of 1966, whose Medal of Honor will soon have a new home in a Chicago area middle school that bears his name.
Known as “Jimmy” or “Jimbo” by his family, Monroe was in the second semester of his senior year at W&L when he asked for some time off (voluntary withdrawal) to “provide the time for my attitude to mature.” He was drafted and went to Vietnam where he was a medic. According to the Medal of Honor citation, Jimmy was treating an injured radio operator during an attack on Feb. 16, 1967, when he saw a live grenade fall in front of his position and smothered the grenade’s blast with his body. He was recognized for “conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty.”
The story was retold in October 2008 by John Rutherford, a classmate of Jimmy’s at W&L, a decorated Vietnam veteran and a producer for NBC. In a column titled “Fallen but not forgotten: Pfc. James Monroe” that introduced a PBS documentary on the medal of honor, John wrote about his former classmate and the circumstances under which he won the Medal of Honor.
As the Tribune story explains, the medal itself has been in the possession of Jimmy’s niece, Michelle Gattas. But she recently determined it belongs in James Monroe Middle School in Wheaton. The school was officially renamed in 1969. On May 27, there will be a dedication ceremony on the football field of Monroe Middle School.