Sixty-five years after he first received the Medal of Honor, local veteran Charles Coolidge once again was lauded for his courage during World War II.
On Friday morning, Tennessee Army National Guard Maj. Gen. Max Haston presented Coolidge with a Medal of Honor flag in Coolidge Park, which is named in his honor.
"I think it's nice that they've done it," Coolidge said of the presentation.
The flag award was created by the U.S. Congress in 2002 to recognize again recipients of the Medal of Honor, the U.S. military's highest award, and Coolidge is the first flag recipient in Tennessee, the general said.
Coolidge, now 89 and a resident of Signal Mountain, earned the medal during a four-day battle that began on Oct. 24, 1944, in Belmont sur Buttant, France. The then-U.S. Army Sgt. Coolidge took battlefield command of a group of recently arrived soldiers when they ran into a German infantry company escorted by tanks.
The German company repeatedly assaulted Coolidge's heavy machine gun unit, but the men repelled the attacks.
At one point, "Coolidge armed himself with a bazooka and advanced to within 25 yards of the tanks. His bazooka failed to function and he threw it aside. Securing all the hand grenades he could carry, he crawled forward and inflicted heavy casualties on the advancing enemy," according to the official citation.
Coolidge said that after 20 months of daily combat, he'd gotten so used to being shot at, he'd walk the front lines like he "was walking down the streets of Chattanooga."
Haston said receiving the Medal of Honor warrants any recognition that can be offered, and the flag is a way to keep the memory of heroic actions alive.
"I think what you have to do is read what it takes to get the Medal of Honor," he said. "It's heroism and actions without regard to your own life, and it's saving the lives of others."
Many owe a debt to the actions of veterans like Coolidge, he said.
"There are many, many, many generations walking around this country today because of the actions of this man," Haston said. "He's saved the lives of men who went on to have families, and they had families."
President Harry Truman presented the medal to Coolidge in 1945. In 2006, France made Coolidge a knight of the Legion of Honor, the country's highest honor.