Military medals usually are awarded to those who display great heroism and courage in combat. But when Alton’s Veterans of Foreign Wars members Wayne Able and William Perkins crafted the Courage Inspiration Determination Medal, they had a different kind of battle in mind.
Able and Perkins, among other VFW members, honored children at SSM Cardinal Glennon Children’s Medical Center in St. Louis for fortitude displayed in their continuing battle; in this case, the battle for a healthier, more normal life.
The idea came to Able when he saw the story of Marine Sgt. Mark Dolfini and 12-year-old Cody Green spreading like wildfire on Facebook. Green was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia before his second birthday. Green had always idolized Marines and wished to be able to join when he was of age. Dolfini heard this and wished to visit Green, but medical complications did not allow it. Dolfini later was notified by Green’s parents that he was down to his final hours, so Dolfini dressed in his blues and stood outside Green’s hospital doors for eight hours.
The story deeply resonated with Able and he continued to think and pray about it. Then the idea hit him.
“What better way to help a sick kid fight a battle than get a group of guys who have already been there and fought the battle?” Able said. “Who better to show a kid a victory over war than a group of that’s already been in a war?”
That’s when Able got Perkins involved, and with the backing of the Alton VFW his idea came to life. Able began designing the medal. The front emblem is a child’s hand and the back is inscripted with the words Courage, Inspiration, and Determination. The medal hangs from a white ribbon that symbolizes children’s innocence.
After the medal was completed, Able and Perkins believed it was necessary to present the medals in a full-fledged military ceremony.
“Nothing is more pleasing for a military guy than to be able to stand in front of his captains, admirals and colonels and have them hand you a medal,” Able said.
Perkins wrote out a certificate to present with the medals that explains what it means to earn a Courage Inspiration Determination medal. The certificate states: “For exemplary fortitude displayed by you in your continuing battle. Your strength and determination to win shows others how they can do the same and is an inspiration to everyone who meets you. Such determination in the face of adversity shows the courage of which true leaders are made. Your conduct is an example that all can and should live by, and are keeping with the highest traditions of the Veterans of Foreign Wars.”
Because of space issues, Cardinal Glennon did not allow for a full-fledged military ceremony, so VFW members scattered throughout the hospital honoring as many children as they could, sometimes even directly from their hospital bed.
Perkins said he was amazed by what these children go through every day and hopes the event showed them they are not forgotten and are important.
Though he is considered a cofounder of the event, Perkins said Able deserves most of the credit.
“So many people saw that article,” Perkins said. “But Wayne saw something in that to inspire children.”