By Staff Sgt. Jennifer Atkinson, Texas Army National Guard
A brisk October wind made the flags and red, white, and blue bunting flutter and flap as the entire town of Farmersville, Texas, turned out to honor a local hero as the Texas Legislative Medal of Honor was posthumously presented to World War II’s most decorated soldier, retired Maj. Audie L. Murphy, on Oct. 29.
“We are deeply humbled and proud to be at such an event,” said Maj. Gen. John F. Nichols, the adjutant general of Texas and the commanding general of the Texas Military Forces, “to honor the most decorated soldier of World War II in a Texas way.”
Murphy, one of 12 children, was born into a large sharecropper family in Hunt County in northeast Texas. He often hunted to put food on the family table, and dropped out of school after the fifth grade to support his family.
“Coming from humble roots, like many Texans before and since, Audie Murphy answered the call to serve,” said Nichols, “except that he served above and beyond that call of duty.”
In 1942, Murphy’s older sister helped him forge birth paperwork so he could join the Army at 17, below the minimum recruitment age.
After receiving training at Camp Wolters, Texas, Fort Meade, Md., and in Algeria, Murphy fought in the European and Mediterranean theaters of operations.
On Jan. 26, 1945, he conducted an hour-long defensive action against German troops at the Colmar Pocket near Holtzwihr, France. Standing alone on a burning tank destroyer, Murphy fired a machine gun at attacking German soldiers and tanks until he exhausted all his ammunition, receiving a leg wound during the fight. Refusing medical attention, Murphy climbed off the tank, and led his men on a successful counter assault.
Murphy was 19 when he received the Medal of Honor. He would, throughout the course of his service, receive 33 awards, from the United States, Belgium and France.
After release from active-duty, Murphy joined the Texas Army National Guard during the outbreak of the Korean War, eventually attaining the rank of major.
The Texas Legislative Medal of Honor was presented to Nadine Murphy Lockey, Murphy’s sister, on behalf of Murphy, to honor his service and sacrifice as an American and a Texan.
The Texas Legislative Medal of Honor is awarded to “a member of the state or federal military forces (effective June 20, 2003) designated by concurrent resolution of the legislature who voluntarily performs a deed of personal bravery or self-sacrifice involving risk of life that is so conspicuous as to clearly distinguish the person for gallantry and intrepidity above the person’s comrades. Awarding of the medal shall be considered on the standard of extraordinary merit. The medal may be awarded only on incontestable proof of performance of the deed.”
Bestowed every other year, there have been 10 recipients of the award; every award but one has been presented posthumously.