On this Flag Day, let's remember Sgt. William Carney. He was the first African-American awarded the Medal of Honor. He was a member of Company C, 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry. On July 18, 1863, during the Battle of Fort Wagner, a 23 year old Sgt. Carney along with 600 men of the 54th Regiment gallantly fought one of the most ferocious battles in history with over half of the unit killed or wounded. As evening fell, the brave 54th jumped to their feet and charged towards the enemy stronghold. As they advanced, cannon fire and bullets flew through the air, devastating the brave 54th. Despite of the mounting losses, great danger, fighting hand to hand, the gallant 54th continued to fight on to the objective . . .
The soldier who was carrying the colors of the United States was mortally wounded and the flag began to fall to the ground. Sgt. Carney threw his rifle down and grabbed the colors before they touched the ground. At that very moment, a bullet tore into his leg. His men were cut down by enemy fire but Sgt. Carney mustered the strength to lift the colors high and lead the charge. He entered the Fort alone and planted the flag. Most of his men had been killed or wounded. He wrapped the flag around the staff to protect it, ran down an embankment, through chest-deep in water, still holding the flag high, as a bullets struck him in the chest, arm and leg. Alone he drove on, never letting the flag fall into the hands of the enemy. As he struggled towards safety, with rifle and cannon fire all around, a bullet grazed his head but he did not quit. Before collapsing his only words were, “Boys, I only did my duty. The flag never touched the ground.” For his conspicuous bravery, selfless heroism and gallantry in service to our Nation, Sgt. William Harvey Carney was awarded the Medal of Honor, on May 23, 1900. We will never forget!