Medal of Honor recipient shares story with Rotarians

  • Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Steve McDaniel/Independent Retired Maj. Gen. and Congressional Medal of Honor recipient James Livingston speaks to a Goose Creek Rotary Club member at the group’s monthly meeting Tuesday, Aug. 26.

James Livingston is on a mission, a familiar situation for a retired Marine Corps major general.

This mission has nothing to do with combat, however.

The 74-year-old Medal of Honor recipient who lives in the Charleston area has another goal in mind: Making the National Medal of Honor Museum a reality in the Lowcountry.

Livingston and his group are in the fundraising stage for the project launched a little more than a year ago, and he’s in a bit of hurry to complete it. He said he hopes the project will break ground within a couple of years.

“There are only six living Medal of Honor recipients from World War II and six from Korea,” Livingston said Tuesday, Aug. 26, at the monthly Goose Creek Rotary Club meeting. “Our desire is we would like some of those from the ‘Greatest Generation’ there when we open this museum. We’re losing them every day.”

Livingston and the group working on the museum project have secured a site next to the U.S.S. Yorktown at Patriots Point in Mount Pleasant, leased by the state for $1 a year for 99 years. The project’s goal is $100 million in donations. So far, $13 million has been raised in about four months.

He also put forth a challenge to Goose Creek Mayor Michael Heitzler for the town to raise $100,000 toward that total.

Livingston said he’s asked frequently why South Carolina was picked as the site of the project.

“I tell people it’s a pretty easy answer,” he said. “The Civil War started here, and the first recipients of the Medal of Honor were from the Civil War. It seems to make sense.”

Livingston is also helping push an initiative called the Medal of Honor Character Development Program, aimed at teaching young students about the recipients of the medal, and showing students how to live with courage, honor and integrity. “The program helps young people learn about the character of Medal of Honor recipients,” he said. “What they bring to the table as human beings. We use their examples to amplify and simplify that message to young people.”

Livingston received his Medal of Honor from President Nixon in 1970 for action in a May, 1968, battle in the village of Dai Do, Vietnam. According to his page on the Congressional Medal of Honor Society website, then-Capt. Livingston directed an assault on enemy positions in the village in an effort to free an isolated company of Marines.

He directed his troops under heavy enemy fire, sustaining several wounds in the process, and successfully reunited the trapped Marines with their battalion.

Still wounded, Livingston also directed a second action after another Marine unit came under heavy fire in the adjacent village.

Only after all of his troops were safe did he allow himself to be evacuated, the site said.

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