Family of WWI veteran from Kansas wants Medal of Freedom posthumously

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MISSION HILLS, Kan. — He’s gone, but not forgotten.

One family from the metro believes their late relative, a World War One veteran, is deserving of the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

He’s an American statesman waiting for his just rewards. Harry W. Colmery died in 1979, having spent his life as a public servant, including his two years as an U.S. Army Air Service fighter pilot in World War One.

Colmery is known to many as being the “Father of the G.I. Bill,” since he’s credited as having drafted the original documents that enabled many servicemen and servicewomen to attend college.

Colmery’s granddaughter, Mina Steen, still resides in Mission Hills. She is among those who believe Colmery is deserving of the Presidential Medal of Freedom, which is the highest American honor given to civilians.

“He and others who cared about this went to work to make sure we paid our debt to these returning veterans with no idea of the benefit it would have for the country,” Steen said.

Steen says Colmery was first nominated for the Medal of Freedom in 1998, but he’s been passed over every year since then, despite written support from various veterans groups and legislators.

“He devoted his life to veterans and to the betterment of our country as he sought politically. He was a true civil servant,” Steen added.

Now, Grantham University has taken an interest. Valerie Morrow points out that many of the online school’s students are on the G.I. Bill. She helped build an online homage to Harry, where one click can send emails and tweets to lawmakers showing support for Colmery as a medal recipient.

“A lot of times, these are first-generation college students who, without the G.I. Bill, and without Harry Colmery’s tremendous gift to service men and women, they wouldn’t have had the opportunity to go to school,” Morrow said.

Steen says the Presidential Medal of Freedom is sometimes given posthumously, but when it is, it’s usually given to citizens who’ve only been gone a short time. Steen says past presidents have made exceptions, and she hopes Colmery will be one of them.

Click here for Grantham’s website in Colmery’s honor — where you can also issue your support for him as a medal recipient.

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