The recently passed National Defense Authorization Act gave President Donald Trump the authority to award the Medal of Honor to Army 1st Lt. Garlin Murl Conner almost two decades after he died.
Conner, a former intelligence officer, will be honored during a ceremony at the White House later in 2018 for his bravery in World War II while assigned to K Company, 7th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Infantry Division, according to the Lexington Herald Leader.
Conner, a Kentucky native who died in 1998 at age 79, joined the United States Army in 1941 and was discharged when WWII ended.
Conner is the second-most decorated World War II soldier behind Maj. Audie Murphy. He earned four Silver Stars, one Bronze Star, three Purple Hearts and the Distinguished Service Cross for his actions in WWII.
According to his Distinguished Service Cross citation, on January 24, 1945, Conner used a telephone wire to direct friendly artillery fire to hold off six German tanks and about 600 German infantrymen. Conner was individually credited with stopping more than 150 German troops, destroying the tanks, and “disintegrating the powerful enemy assault force and preventing heavy loss of life in his own outfit.”
Conner’s accomplishment in January 1945 led to an effort to upgrade Conner’s Distinguished Service Cross to a Medal of Honor. It began in the mid-1990s when Richard Chilton, a former Green Beret, wrote to the Army Board for Correction of Military Records. The board rejected the application in 1997 and turned away an appeal in 2000. Conner’s widow, Lyda Pauline, resubmitted the case to the board in 2008 after collecting three eyewitness accounts, but in 2014, a Kentucky district court ruled that the statute of limitations expired.
Kentucky Senators Mitch McConnell and Rand Paul sent a letter to Defense Secretary James Mattis supporting the effort to recognize Conner.
After that, Senate Majority Leader McConnell attached an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act of 2018 that legally recognized Conner as a Medal of Honor winner.
On Monday, more than 20 years after the first application was rejected, Lyda Pauline Conner received a phone call from President Trump.
Trump told the 88-year-old that her late husband would finally be receiving the Medal of Honor.
“I think it’s one of the most wonderful things that’s ever happened to me besides marrying my husband. That was best,” she told the Lexington Herald Leader. “He said my husband had one of the best records that he had seen.”