Daily American Sunday Editor
November 10, 2012
A group of community members have made it their duty to recognize a man who earned military acknowledgment for going beyond the call of duty.
Members of the group — which is dubbed the "Committee of Relatives of Somerset County Recipients of the Medal of Honor and Interested Citizens" — have spent their time and money to remount the Medal of Honor awarded to John W. Mostoller on Dec. 27, 1894.
Somerset resident Vince Jacob said it was important for them to be historically accurate in reconstituting the medal display in the way it would have been originally presented to Mostoller. To this end, the committee added a new top bar and ribbon to the medal. These were authentic reproductions donated by the Soldiers & Sailors Memorial Hall & Museum in Pittsburgh.
"I think that it's a very worthwhile project to restore something that was received by a Somerset County person," said Jacob, the Somerset Rotary Club's Veterans Day chairman.
"We did a lot of research on this. The whole committee joined in."
Mostoller earned the nation's highest military distinction for his actions during the Civil War. He died in 1927 and his medal was placed in the lobby of the county courthouse in 1954.
According to Jacob, the project came together when area residents Harold Weigle and Stewart Saylor decided to research local Medal of Honor recipients.
"They're the ones that started all this," he said. "I would say I was inspired by them and we started a committee. I'm just an interested citizen."
A total of four Somerset County natives have received the Medal of Honor: Francis Marion Cunningham, Civil War; George Henry Ramer, Korean War; Clifton T. Speicher, Korean War; and Mostoller. Jacob said the number is significant because there have been only about 3,400 recipients over the course of history.
And because there are more than 2,200 counties in America, this means Somerset has a remarkable ratio given its low population.
"To have four born here is amazing," he said.
The new Mostoller display was financed at no cost to taxpayers by the Somerset Rotary Club, the Frosty Sons of Thunder and the Stoystown American Legion Robert P. Hite Post No. 257. It will be moved from the courthouse lobby to the Hall of Honor in the courthouse annex.
"It is in strikingly good condition," Jacob said of the medal.
Mostoller's great-grandson Jeff Zimmerman said the new location is a welcome change.
"It's going to be in a much better place," the 62-year-old Stoystown resident said.
According to Zimmerman, joining the Medal of Honor committee has been an enlightening experience. He said that because his father was born in 1927 — two years after Mostoller died — the family knew little about his accomplishment.
"There wasn't really any discussion about my great-grandfather because he didn't exist in my father's life," he said.
Zimmerman said his great-grandfather was honored because he led a charge at Lynchburg, Va., on June 18, 1864, after all superior officers had been killed. The 21-year-old Army private eventually helped his company capture a Rebel battery. Mostoller is buried at the Odd Fellows Cemetery in Stoystown.
"I've learned as much by attending the meetings as I ever knew," Zimmerman said. "It was kind of neat."
He thanked Jacob for taking the initiative to make the new display possible.
"I give him the credit for spearheading what's been done," Zimmerman said.
To become reality, the project also needed the Somerset County commissioners' support. Commissioner Pamela Tokar-Ickes said it was only fitting to place the Mostoller medal in the annex where Speicher's is held.
"It is a nice addition to the Cpl. Clifton Speicher medals in the Somerset County Veterans Hall of Honor. It is a piece of county military history that, by restoring, people will be able to appreciate it for generations to come," Tokar-Ickes said.
Speicher, of Gray, died in battle in 1952. In 2009 his family donated his Medal of Honor and Purple Heart to the hall, which is located inside the Somerset County Office Building along North Center Avenue in Somerset.
The county commissioners will hold a small rededication ceremony at noon Monday to unveil the new Mostoller display.
(Staff writer Judy D.J. Ellich contributed to this report.)
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