During the middle of March 2016, I, John Graham, adjutant at American Legion Post 69 in Malden, Mass., received a telephone call from a Ray Johnston of Toledo, Ohio, who works with the Congressional Medal of Honor Society. He stated that his job was to locate those who received the Medal of Honor but do not have an appropriate military headstone. He made mention of a Sgt. Richard P. Hanley who is buried in Malden at Holy Cross Cemetery, who has a family headstone and therefore cannot get a headstone paid for by VA. Post 69 spearheaded the campaign to pay for a suitable Medal of Honor footstone, and with funds raised the money paid for a collation for those who participated in this historical event.
Post 69 held a ceremony for this event at Holy Cross on the 140th anniversary of the Battle of the Little Big Horn. Present were many guests and color guard units from the Malden Police Department, Fire Department, Chelsea Soldiers Home veterans, and the U.S. Army Reserve Color Guard. A riderless horse was also present, along with many Post 69 members. Commander Larry Clark of Post 69 was the MC.
Sgt. Richard P. Hanley was awarded the Medal of Honor for his heroic actions at the Battle of the Little Big Horn on June 25, 1876. Members of Post 69 could not believe that we had a soldier who fought with the 7th Cavalry under Gen. George A. Custer buried in our city, let alone he being awarded the Medal of Honor. His citation reads:
“Recaptured, singlehanded, and without orders, within the enemy’s lines and under a galling fire lasting some 20 minutes, a stampeded pack mule loaded with ammunition.”
When Custer arrived at the Little Big Horn he divided his command into three. Custer sent Capt. Benteen west to scout for Indians while he sent Maj. Reno to attack the Indian village from one side while Custer would attack from the other side further north. Custer and those who accompanied him were all killed. Reno was forced to retreat from the overwhelming amount of Indians attacking him. He went for the high ground and there made his stand. Shortly after, Benteen showed up and all wondered what happened to Custer. When the Indians started to attack Reno’s position, a pack mule carrying about 1,000 rounds of ammunition got spooked and ran directly into the direction of the Indians. Against orders, Hanley mounted his horse and gave chase. He managed to get hold of the mule and return it to the troops, who were in desperate need of the ammunition.
The Boston Globe ran an article on it prior to the event, and it brought many spectators, among them members of the 7th Cavalry who served in Vietnam. Veterans from surrounding areas who read the article also showed up, along with some American Legion members, Massachusetts State Commander Kenny Stark and Past National Commander Jake Comer, who was guest speaker. The popular census from attending veterans was that we honored those who should never be forgotten. American Legion veterans from Post 69 were proud of the tradition. “NEVER FORGET”!