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LCC to Honor Six Local Military Heroes on Veteran's Day


WHO:              Lansing Community College
Veterans Memorial Induction Ceremony
11 a.m., Friday, November 11, 2011
           Health & Human Services Building, Fred Abood Rotunda (Lower Level)   LCC Main Campus, 515 N. Washington Square
To induct six local veterans in the interactive Veterans Memorial that was unveiled on Veterans Day 2010. Open to the public.

Medal of Honor Inductees:

·      Francis C. Flaherty, Charlotte – Ensign, U.S. Navy

Flaherty was born and raised in Charlotte and attended the University of Michigan. Upon graduation, he entered the Navy as an Ensign in the Naval Reserve. He was stationed on board the battleship, U.S.S. Oklahoma at Pearl Harbor when Japanese forces attacked. He was trapped in a gun turret below deck but managed to help several of his crewmates escape death before losing his own life at age 22. Flaherty was the first of only 13 Michigan men to be awarded the Medal of Honor during World War II.

·   George E. Ranney, Lansing – Assistant Surgeon, 2nd Michigan Cavalry

In 1864, during a Civil War battle at Resaca, Georgia, Ranney risked his own life to pull a wounded Union soldier to safety. After the war, he helped establish the Michigan State Medical Society, and was the author of many medical papers including one in 1874 showing that contaminated water was the prolific cause of typhoid fever. He died in 1915.

·   Sherrod E. Skinner, Jr., East Lansing – Second Lieutenant, U.S. Marine Corps

In October 1952, when he was 22, Skinner was a forward artillery observer in a vital forward outpost in Korea when it was attacked by the enemy. He continued the defense of the position until his unit’s ammunition was exhausted and he directed his men to feign death as the enemy overran the position. When a grenade was thrown among the Marines, Skinner threw himself on it to protect the others, losing his life.

Distinguished Service Inductees:

·   Eugene Bleil, East Lansing – Staff Sergeant, U.S. Army Air Corps

In April 1942, Bleil was serving in the Bataan Peninsula, Philippines, when the Japanese Imperial Army attacked, and forced 78,000 U.S. and Filipino forces to march 65 miles across the Peninsula to a prison camp. During what would become known as the Bataan Death March, thousands were brutally killed or died due to heat, exhaustion or malnutrition. Bleil was imprisoned in two camps before being sent to Japan as a slave laborer.  He was freed September 1945. Bleil came home and became an anesthesiologist. 

·   Louis Stamatakos, Okemos – Staff Sergeant, U.S. Army Air Corps

Just 19, Stamatakos was the tail gunner on a B-17 bomber over Kassel, Germany in February 1945. The plane successfully released four of its six bombs to hit targets below.  The remaining two bombs were stuck in shackles in the bomb bay and one was live. Stamatakos risked his own safety to balance dangerously over the open bay doors to free the bombs, saving everyone on board. He became a Professor of Higher Education Administration at Michigan State University and died in January 2011.

Special Tribute:

·   Richard P. Thelen, Lansing – Seaman Second Class, U.S. Navy

Richard Thelen survived one of most horrifying events of World War II – the sinking of the U.S.S. Indianapolis in the Pacific. The ship, with 1,196 crew, had just delivered parts and enriched uranium for the atomic bomb that would be later dropped on Hiroshima. It stopped at Guam to pick up crew who had completed their tours of duty.  Two days later in open sea, it was torpedoed by a Japanese submarine. The damage was so severe, the ship sank in 12 minutes. 800 men made it into the water but few life rafts were released.  The Navy command had no knowledge of the disaster until 4 days later. By then, only 316 men survived, the others succumbing to shark attacks, exposure, salt poisoning and thirst.  Thelen was only 17 when he joined the Navy. After the war, he became an independent truck driver.

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