Medal of Honor Recipients
The Medal of Honor is the highest award for valor in action against an enemy force that can be bestowed upon an individual serving in the Armed Services of the United States. Recipients receive the Medal of Honor from the president on behalf of Congress. It was first awarded during the Civil War and eligibility criteria for the Medal of Honor have changed over time.
Recipients buried or memorialized here:
First Sergeant George Theodore Hyatt (Civil War). He received the Medal of Honor while serving in the U.S. Army, Company D, 127th Illinois Infantry, for actions at Vicksburg, Mississippi, May 22, 1863. Hyatt died in 1900 and is buried in Section 1, Site 1613.
Born in Brooklyn, NY, John William Bach was a World War II veteran and basketball player, coach, and mentor. Born in 1924, he attended St. John’s Prep and began his basketball career there, winning two Catholic city championships, before serving in the U.S. Navy, 1943-1947. After his tour, Bach returned to school and the basketball court. He graduated from Fordham University and was named most valuable player in 1947-1948. He went on to coach Fordham’s basketball team for eighteen seasons and was inducted into the school’s Hall of Fame in 1974. Bach led Penn State’s team for ten years before he joined the coaching staffs of the Golden State Warriors and Chicago Bulls. He was behind the Bulls’ defense that helped secure three consecutive National Basketball Association championship titles. Bach died January 18, 2016, and is buried in Abraham Lincoln National Cemetery (Section 16, Site 326).
John Edward Carter was born in 1934 and grew up on Chicago’s South Side where he and fellow members of a Bronzeville church choir formed the Swallows in 1952. The group became the Flamingoes and quickly became known for their intricate harmonies, with Carter as a tenor. The all-black, all-male vocalists were part of the emerging doo-wop sound and their “Golden Teardrops” was a signature song. The Flamingoes signed with Chicago’s Chess Records in 1955. Carter was drafted into the U.S. Army as cook, 1956-1958, stationed in Germany. While Carter was serving overseas the band replaced him, but in 1960 he joined another Chicago group, the Dells. Carter’s vocals remain profoundly influential and he is a two-time Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee for the Flamingoes (2001) and Dells (2004). Carter died August 21, 2009, and is buried in Abraham Lincoln National Cemetery (Section 8, Site 46).
Michael Galajdik was born in 1916 and was raised with the help of a sister. He worked with the Civilian Conservation Corps from 1935 until 1940, when he joined the U.S. Navy. Fireman First Class Galajdik was on board the USS Oklahoma during the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, December 7, 1941. Galajdik received the Purple Heart posthumously and was buried as an unknown in the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific, HI. He is one of many USS Oklahoma dead being identified by the U.S. Army using DNA technologies and dental records. Galadjik's remains were reinterred in Abraham Lincoln National Cemetery on April 22, 2017 (Section 10, Site 402).
John H. Geiger was born in 1925 and spent childhood in Iowa where his father, a veteran of World War I, directed Civilian Conservation Corps projects during the Great Depression. Geiger served in the U.S. Army during World War II. In 1945, while still in the military, the Army Technician 5 joined The American Legion. By 1960 Geiger led Illinois’ Legion department, and in the early 1970s he took command of the national organization. After his term, he remained active in the organization’s leadership, championing the G.I. Bill for Vietnam veterans and influencing policy. After World War II Geiger attended school on the G.I. Bill, graduating from the University of Illinois and, in 1966, becoming a structural engineer for United Airlines. Geiger oversaw construction of United’s Terminal One at O’Hare Airport as well as terminals in other cities. Geiger died January 10, 2011, and is buried in Abraham Lincoln National Cemetery (Section 9A, Site 708).
Illinois native Iceal “Gene” Hambleton was born in 1918 and served in the U.S. Air Force in World War II as a radio operator, 1943-1945. Lieutenant Colonel Hambleton did not see combat in that tour, but he did as a navigator in Korea and Vietnam. He commanded the 571st Strategic Missile Squadron based in Tucson, AZ, and on April 2, 1972 -- his sixty-third mission in Vietnam -- was shot down. Hambleton was the only crew member able to eject and he survived behind enemy lines for eleven days. His rescue was the longest and most complex of the war, immortalized in print and film as Bat 21, his aircraft call sign. Hambleton received the Silver Star, Distinguished Flying Cross, the Air Medal, Meritorious Service Medal, and Purple Heart. He died September 19, 2004, and is buried at Abraham Lincoln National Cemetery (Section C2-34, Row C, Site 8).
Born in Illinois, Sator Sanchez, worked in the Civilian Conservation Corps before enlisting in the U.S. Army in 1939. He transferred to the Army Air Forces in 1941 and during World War II, gunner Sanchez completed 44 combat missions before returning stateside as an instructor. Technical Sergeant Sanchez volunteered for another tour and flew 22 missions with the 15th Air Force. On March 15, 1945, when Sanchez's aircraft was damaged over Germany, he ejected but his body was never recovered. In 1993, the tail of his downed B-17 was donated to the National Museum of U.S. Air Force. Sanchez is honored many ways. He earned a Silver Star and Distinguished Flying Cross, and is the only enlisted man for whom a B-17 aircraft was named, "Smilin' Sandy Sanchez." His hometown of Joliet named an elementary school and park for him. Sanchez is memorialized in Abraham Lincoln National Cemetery (Section M1, Site 36).
George Sangmeister (1931-2007) was born in Frankfort, IL, and throughout his career Will County served as his legal and political base. His education was interrupted by the Korean Conflict and Sergeant Sangmeister served in the U.S. Army from 1951-1953. As a civilian he returned to school – Elmhurst College and John Marshall Law School in Chicago -- and worked as a lawyer, magistrate, justice of the peace, and state attorney. Sangmeister entered politics in the Illinois state government. He missed a bid for lieutenant governor in 1986 alongside Adlai Stevenson, but shortly thereafter Sangmeister was elected as a U.S. Representative as a Democrat (1989-1995). He was instrumental to the redevelopment of the Joliet Arsenal, designation of a tallgrass prairie, and establishment of Abraham Lincoln National Cemetery. Sangmeister died October 7; he and his wife, Doris, are buried at the national cemetery (Section 1, Site 2).
Augustus Alexander “Gus” Savage (1925-2015) was a pioneer African-American journalist, civil rights advocate, and Democrat in the U.S. Representatives. Born in Detroit, MI, he grew up and lived in Chicago. A 1943-1946 tour in the segregated U.S. Army Air Forces during World War II developed Technician 5 Savage’s commitment to racial equality. He graduated from Roosevelt University in 1951 and attended the Chicago-Kent School of Law. Savage campaigned for civil rights as a publisher, editor, and writer with American Negro magazine and Citizen Community newspapers, as part of the League of Negro Voters, and as an elected congressman (1981-1993). He died October 31 and is buried in Abraham Lincoln National Cemetery (Section 16, Site 34).
Richard Francis Whitehead was born in Massachusetts in 1894 and enlisted in the U.S. Navy in 1912. Vice Admiral Whitehead served until 1956 with extensive duty at home and abroad. He received the Distinguished Flying Cross for service between the world wars and the Distinguished Service Medal for combat during World War II for his command of air support units in Iwo Jima and Okinawa. Whitehead's legacy includes oversight of the conversion of two merchant ships into makeshift aircraft carriers – USS Wolverine and USS Sable – in Lake Michigan. An estimated 25,000 naval aviators were trained using this program during starting in 1941. As a civilian, Whitehead lived in Chicago. He died March 11, 1993, and his remains were moved to Abraham Lincoln National Cemetery on January 9, 2009 (Section C4-65, Niche A9).
Journalist John Whiteside (1943-2005) served in the U.S. Air Force in 1963-1964. After graduating from Northern Illinois University, in 1971 he went to work for the Herald News in Joliet, IL. Whiteside became a columnist for the newspaper a decade later and held that position until his death. He conducted interviews at local diner where a booth is dedicated to him. Whiteside advocated for veterans and police officers. His particular causes were the Abraham Lincoln National Cemetery honor guards and the police memorial at the Will County courthouse. Whiteside died January 22 and is buried at the cemetery (Section 1, Site 836).