Effort launched to rename VA Hospital to honor Medal of Honor recipient from West Oak Lane

U.S. Rep. Chaka Fattah announced Monday that he has introduced legislation that could rename a local veteran’s center in honor of a fallen Medal of Honor winner from West Oak Lane.

Fattah is among several local legislators pushing to turn the Philadelphia Veterans Affairs Medical Center on Woodland Avenue in University City into the Corporal Michael J. Crescenz Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center.

A 1966 graduate of Cardinal Dougherty High School, Crescenz was a Vietnam War hero and the only Philadelphian to receive the Medal of Honor for service in that war. He was honored posthumously for his bravery in Hiep Duc Valley on Nov. 20, 1968.

“There is no greater sacrifice than to lay down your life in service to your country,”  said Fattah, senior member of the House Appropriations Committee and a member of its Military Construction and Veterans Affairs subcommittee.

He noted that “the renaming of this facility recognizes and honors the ultimate sacrifice of Corporal Crescenz and the thousands of men and women who put their lives on the line every day for our freedom.”

Lobbying effort

The legislation was spurred on through a years-long effort by those committed to honoring the memory of Crescenz. In September 2012, a City Council resolution did just that.

Joining Fattah as original co-sponsors of the legislation are U.S. Reps. Robert Brady and Allyson Schwartz. Brady termed it a “long overdue honor” for a hero from Philadelphia.

“Naming the hospital for Michael honors all of the brave men and women who gave so much for us in Vietnam and in other wars,” he said.

Schwartz echoed the sentiment.

“We have a responsibility to remember and honor the brave men and women who defend our country,” said Schwartz. “Corporal Michael Crescenz was a hero who made the ultimate sacrifice.

“Naming this VA hospital after Corporal Crescenz pays tribute to his sacrifice, the sacrifice of all veterans and the heroism they displayed to keep our country safe.”

The back story

The Medal of Honor was originally presented to Crescenz’s parents by President Richard Nixon at a White House ceremony in April 1970.

According to the Medal of Honor citation, the 19-year-old corporal “distinguished himself by conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action while serving as a rifleman. … Cpl. Crescenz left the relative safety of his own position, seized a nearby machine gun and, with complete disregard for his safety, charged 100 meters up a slope toward the enemy’s bunkers which he effectively silenced.

“As a direct result of his heroic actions, his company was able to maneuver freely with minimal danger and to complete its mission, defeating the enemy,” it continued. “Cpl. Crescenz’s bravery and extraordinary heroism at the cost of his life are in the highest traditions of the military service and reflect great credit on himself, his unit, and the U.S. Army.”

When Crescenz was honored by a City Council resolution in September 2012, his brother Joe accepted and reminded those present about the valor of service members.

“Don’t you ever forget that we’re here because of one military, and for God’s grace,” he said.

NewsWorks will follow up with reaction from the Crescenz family to this renaming effort.

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