Local Medal of Honor recipient honored on U.S. stamp

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By Chris McCarthy/ Publisher/Editor

A local hero was recognized posthumously earlier this week in a Veterans Day ceremony at the City of Gadsden’s main post office branch on Chestnut Street.

U.S. Army Colonel and late Gadsden resident Ola Lee Mize, a Medal of Honor recipient who passed away in March, was included in a U.S. Postal Service stamp featuring the 145 Medal of Honor recipients from the Korean War. Mize is pictured on the stamp with 12 other veterans who were living when the stamp was in production.

Mize received the Medal of Honor in 1954, earning the highest decoration the U.S. military offers during his service in Korea and Vietnam.

Present was Mize’s wife, Betty Ruth, and other family members, City of Gadsden Mayor Sherman Guyton, Gadsden Postmaster Tracy Bibbs and Alabama District Marketing Manager Bridgett Carroll and Alabama District Manager Mary Sullivan from the U.S. Postal Service. 

Also on hand for the ceremony was Etowah County Veterans Affairs Service Officer Rick Vaughn, a U.S. Army veteran who served three tours of duty during the Vietnam War. 

“There will never be another man like Ola Lee Mize,” said Vaughn. “He was a rare individual who was as strong a Christian as he was a soldier. Lee Mize did not want that honor. He told the President that he didn’t want it if they weren’t going to honor the men who were with him during that time. This was a man who made steps that nobody else was going to walk in. This was a man who if he called you a friend, you would always be his friend as long as you were honest, a Christian and a friend to him.

“ Lee cherished his service to his country, he cherished his family and he cherished his God. Being a Christian, telling his wife he loved her and playing with his grandkids were more important to Lee Mize than a Medal of Honor. In honor of Lee Mize, don’t let Veterans Day be the only day that you honor a veteran.”

Members of the Gadsden City High School ROTC presented the colors and Gadsden State Community College student Alejandro Sanchez played “Taps.”

According to the book Medal of Honor: Portrait of Valor Beyond the Call of Duty, by Peter Collier. Mize was the son of an Alabama sharecropper in Marshall County. He dropped out of school in 1946 after completing the 9th grade to help take care of his mother, brothers and sisters. 

After several years of working for low pay, Mize attempted to enlist in the U.S. Army but was rejected for being too light, at 120 pounds He tried repeatedly to enlist and was eventually accepted, joining the army from Gadsden.

Assigned to the 82nd Airborne Division, Mize planned to finish his term of service and return to school. When the Korean War began, he changed his plans and re-enlisted in hopes of seeing combat. He volunteered for a front-line unit and ended up as a sergeant in Company K of the 15th Infantry Regiment.

On June 10, 1953, his unit was manning Outpost Harry near Surang-ni, Korea, when the post came under heavy enemy attack. Mize organized defensive positions, rescued wounded soldiers, and engaged the enemy until reinforcements arrived about noon the next day. He was subsequently promoted to master sergeant and, on September 24, 1954, awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions at Outpost Harry.

Mize later joined the U.S. Special Forces, where he gained a commission and served three tours of duty in the Vietnam War. He retired in 1981 as a colonel. 

Mize’s other military awards included the Silver Star, the Legion of Merit, the Bronze Star, Ranger Tab, Master Parachutist, SCUBA Badge and the Combat Infantryman’s Badge. 

Mize’s Medal of Honor is on display at the Guntersville Museum in Guntersville. 

A section of Steel Station Road in Rainbow City is named Col. Ola Lee Mize Medal of Honor Highway. 

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