The teenage hero
(Photo via Congressional Medal of Honor Society website)

The teenage hero

American Legion Post 1932 was chartered in 1997 in far-west Chicago. The post’s namesake from its founding has been Milton Lee Olive III of Chicago, the first African American to be awarded the Medal of Honor in the Vietnam War. It was a posthumous award. He was 18 when he died.

On Oct. 22, 1965, Olive was in Phu Cuong. His listing on the Congressional Medal of Honor Society website includes a description of what happened next from his citation:

“Pfc. Olive was a member of the 3d Platoon of Company B, as it moved through the jungle to find the Viet Cong operating in the area. Although the platoon was subjected to a heavy volume of enemy gunfire and pinned down temporarily, it retaliated by assaulting the Viet Cong positions, causing the enemy to flee. As the platoon pursued the insurgents, Pfc. Olive and four other soldiers were moving through the jungle together when a grenade was thrown into their midst. Pfc. Olive saw the grenade, and then saved the lives of his fellow soldiers at the sacrifice of his by grabbing the grenade in his hand and falling on it to absorb the blast with his body. Through his bravery, unhesitating actions, and complete disregard for his safety, he prevented additional loss of life or injury to the members of his platoon.”

President Lyndon B. Johnson presented the medal to Olive’s family at the White House in April 1966.

According to Harold Dillard, who has been adjutant of Post 1932 since 2002, no one at the post knew Olive personally. But they honor their namesake annually by placing wreaths at Milton L. Olive III Park, all the way across town on Lake Michigan.