Renaming of VA hospital advances a step

Com­mit­tee passes le­gis­la­tion that would re­name Phil­adelphia VA Med­ic­al Cen­ter in memory of loc­al sol­dier that re­ceived Medal of Hon­or.

A trib­ute: The U.S. Sen­ate Vet­er­ans Af­fairs Com­mit­tee passed le­gis­la­tion that would re­name the Phil­adelphia VA Med­ic­al Cen­ter in memory of Army Cpl. Mi­chael J. Cres­cenz.

The U.S. Sen­ate Vet­er­ans Af­fairs Com­mit­tee last week passed le­gis­la­tion that would re­name the Phil­adelphia VA Med­ic­al Cen­ter in memory of Army Cpl. Mi­chael J. Cres­cenz, a Car­din­al Dougherty High School gradu­ate who earned the Medal of Hon­or for bravery in the Vi­et­nam War.

The Cor­por­al Mi­chael J. Cres­cenz Act of 2013 was in­tro­duced in Feb­ru­ary by U.S. Sens. Pat Toomey and Bob Ca­sey Jr.

Sen­ate Bill 229 was in­cluded by the Vet­er­ans Af­fairs Com­mit­tee as part of the Vet­er­ans Health and Be­ne­fits Im­prove­ment Act of 2013, which now must now be con­sidered by the full Sen­ate. House Res­ol­u­tion 454, the com­pan­ion le­gis­la­tion, is sponsored by Rep. Chaka Fat­tah.

“Re­nam­ing of the Phil­adelphia VA Med­ic­al Cen­ter is a trib­ute to the hero­ism of Cpl. Mi­chael Cres­cenz as well as ser­vice mem­bers across the coun­try and throughout our his­tory who have made the ul­ti­mate sac­ri­fice to keep Amer­ic­ans safe. This ded­ic­a­tion will serve as a re­mind­er of the debt of grat­it­ude we all owe to these brave men and wo­men,” Ca­sey said.

“Today, we are a step closer to see­ing the name ‘Mi­chael Cres­cenz’ above the door at the Wood­land Av­en­ue vet­er­ans’ med­ic­al cen­ter,” Toomey said.  “I am glad that the Sen­ate Vet­er­ans Af­fairs Com­mit­tee has re­cog­nized the hero­ism and sac­ri­fice of Philly’s own Cpl. Cres­cenz. It is a small ges­ture on our part, giv­en the nature of his great ac­tions. We do this with pro­found re­spect and deep­est grat­it­ude for his sac­ri­fice. May the re­nam­ing of this build­ing serve as an ever-present re­mind­er of the sac­ri­fices of all of Pennsylvania’s Vi­et­nam vet­er­ans.”

Cpl. Cres­cenz (pro­nounced CRESH-enz)  was awar­ded the na­tion’s highest mil­it­ary hon­or for his ac­tions on Nov. 20, 1968, in Vi­et­nam’s Hiep Duc Val­ley. He is the only Vi­et­nam War Medal of Hon­or re­cip­i­ent from Phil­adelphia. Pres­id­ent Richard Nix­on posthum­ously awar­ded him the na­tion’s highest mil­it­ary dec­or­a­tion.

His Medal of Hon­or cita­tion states that, “Cor­por­al Cres­cenz dis­tin­guished him­self by con­spicu­ous gal­lantry and in­trep­id­ity in ac­tion while serving as a rifle­man with Com­pany A. In the morn­ing his unit en­gaged a large, well-en­trenched force of the North Vi­et­namese Army whose ini­tial burst of fire pinned down the lead squad and killed the two point men, halt­ing the ad­vance of Com­pany A. Im­me­di­ately, Cor­por­al Cres­cenz left the re­l­at­ive safety of his own po­s­i­tion, seized a nearby ma­chine gun and, with com­plete dis­reg­ard for his safety, charged 100 meters up a slope to­ward the en­emy’s bunkers which he ef­fect­ively si­lenced, killing the two oc­cu­pants of each. Un­daun­ted by the with­er­ing ma­chine gun fire around him, Cor­por­al Cres­cenz cour­ageously moved for­ward to­ward a third bunker which he also suc­ceeded in si­len­cing, killing two more of the en­emy and mo­ment­ar­ily clear­ing the route of ad­vance for his com­rades.

“Sud­denly, in­tense ma­chine gun fire erup­ted from an un­seen, cam­ou­flaged bunker. Real­iz­ing the danger to his fel­low sol­diers, Cor­por­al Cres­cenz dis­reg­arded the bar­rage of hos­tile fire dir­ec­ted at him and dar­ingly ad­vanced to­ward the po­s­i­tion. As­sault­ing with his ma­chine gun, Cor­por­al Cres­cenz was with­in five meters of the bunker when he was mor­tally wounded by the fire from the en­emy ma­chine gun. As a dir­ect res­ult of his hero­ic ac­tions, his com­pany was able to man­euver freely with min­im­al danger and to com­plete its mis­sion, de­feat­ing the en­emy.

“Cor­por­al Cres­cenz’s bravery and ex­traordin­ary hero­ism at the cost of his life are in the highest tra­di­tions of the mil­it­ary ser­vice and re­flect great cred­it on him­self, his unit, and the U.S. Army.”  

Cres­cenz, 19, of West Oak Lane, was a 1966 gradu­ate of Dougherty, which closed in 2010. He was bur­ied at Holy Sep­ulchre Cemetery in Chel­ten­ham so his par­ents, Charles and Mary Ann, could vis­it his grave. His fam­ily ac­cep­ted the Medal of Hon­or from Nix­on dur­ing a White House ce­re­mony in 1970. His name is on the wall of the Vi­et­nam Vet­er­ans Me­mori­al in Wash­ing­ton, D.C., on Pan­el 38W, Line 016.

On May 2, 2008, Cres­cenz’s re­mains were ex­humed from Holy Sep­ulchre. Ten days later, they were placed in a flag-draped cas­ket for a pil­grim­age to Ar­ling­ton Na­tion­al Cemetery.

Hun­dreds of people at­ten­ded the re­buri­al ce­re­mony on Ar­ling­ton’s sac­red grounds.

In Decem­ber 2010, while pla­cing wreaths on the graves at Ar­ling­ton, Vi­et­nam vet­er­an Fran­cis Ta­cey asked Joe Cres­cenz — Mi­chael’s young­er broth­er — if he could have per­mis­sion to pur­sue the re­nam­ing of the Phil­adelphia VA Med­ic­al Cen­ter.

The Amer­ic­an Le­gion, Vet­er­ans of For­eign War, Dis­abled Amer­ic­an Vet­er­ans and loc­al vet­er­ans and their ad­voc­ates all sup­port the pro­posed name change.

“After over 40 years, it is high time Phil­adelphia hon­ors this in­trep­id Amer­ic­an hero who gave his life for his coun­try. Cor­por­al Mi­chael Cres­cenz de­serves at least a hos­pit­al named after him to hon­or that sac­ri­fice and the ex­traordin­ary gal­lantry that went with it,” said Dav­id Kami­on­er, an Army vet­er­an and ex­ec­ut­ive dir­ect­or of the Phil­adelphia Vet­er­ans Com­fort House. ••

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