Rapp Helps Secure Long Overdue Memorial Marker for Warren County, Congressional Medal of Honor Recipient
End of 20-year wait for decorated Vietnam War hero Paves Way for More ‘Places of Honor’ in PA’s Soldiers Grove
Rep. Kathy Rapp (R-Warren) announced today that the 20-year wait to have a memorial marker commemorating the life and extraordinary service record of Warren County native, and Congressional Medal of Honor recipient U.S. Army Staff Sergeant John Gertsch added to Soldiers Grove at the State Capitol Complex will be over in less than four months.
“Soldiers Grove was specifically designated in 1987 to provide a central location to permanently honor Pennsylvania’s veterans of foreign wars,” said Rapp. “Subsequently, in 1992, former Governor Robert P. Casey commissioned the Medal of Honor Memorial at Soldiers Grove to honor Pennsylvania veterans of foreign wars who are recipients of the country’s highest Medal of Honor.   
“Unfortunately, John Gertsch, and many other equally deserving Pennsylvania military heroes have been denied their rightful place of honor due to a bureaucratic discrepancy over their home address.   On behalf of the Pennsylvania House Veterans Affairs and Emergency Preparedness Committee, I am pleased to report that the Department of General Services has finally agreed to remedy this great disservice to Sergeant Gertsch and his surviving family members by officially scheduling a ceremony to unveil his marker on Monday, June 4, 2007.”
Rapp launched her own personal investigation into this matter after visiting Soldiers Grove in July 2006 and discovering that Warren County’s only Congressional Medal of Honor recipient was not represented. Working together with PA House Veterans Affairs Committee Executive Director Rick O’Leary, she was able to uncover that although Gertsch listed Russell, PA as his “Home of Record” on all military documents, the Department of General Services denied his right to be honored with a Soldiers Grove memorial due to the fact that he entered the service in nearby Buffalo, N.Y., rather than traveling to the next closest Military Entrance Processing Center in Pittsburgh.
Due to the combined efforts of Rapp, members of the John Gertsch Memorial Home Association, Warren County Veterans Affairs Director Edgar Burris, Warren County resident and Gertsch’s Sheffield High School classmate Howard Brush, Speaker Emeritus John Perzel (R-Philadelphia) and Adjutant General Jessica Wright in raising awareness of this common enlistment practice, Department of General Services Secretary James Creedon, stated in a Jan. 17, 2007 letter to Rapp, that Soldiers Grove will now be open to all Medal of Honor recipients that list any location in the Commonwealth as their “Home of Record.”
Gertsch, a five-time Silver Star recipient, lost his life on July 19, 1969 while serving in the Vietnam War. His Congressional Medal of Honor citation reads as follows:
“Staff Sergeant Gertsch distinguished himself while serving as a platoon sergeant and platoon leader during combat operations in the A Shau Valley. During the initial phase of an operation to seize a strongly defended enemy position, Staff Sergeant Gertsch’s platoon leader was seriously wounded and lay exposed to intense enemy fire.
Forsaking his own safety, without hesitation Staff Sergeant Gertsch rushed to aid his fallen leader and dragged him to a sheltered position. He then assumed command of the heavily engaged platoon and led his men in a fierce counterattack that forced the enemy to withdraw.
Later, a small element of Staff Sergeant Gertsch's unit was reconnoitering when attacked again by the enemy. Staff Sergeant Gertsch moved forward to his besieged element and immediately charged, firing as he advanced.
His determined assault forced the enemy troops to withdraw in confusion and made possible the recovery of two wounded men who had been exposed to heavy enemy fire. Sometime later his platoon came under attack by an enemy force employing automatic weapons, grenade, and rocket fire.
Staff Sergeant Gertsch was severely wounded during the onslaught but continued to command his platoon despite his painful wound. While moving under fire and encouraging his men he sighted an aidman treating a wounded officer from an adjacent unit. Realizing that both men were in imminent danger of being killed, he rushed forward and positioned himself between them and the enemy nearby.
While the wounded officer was being moved to safety, Staff Sergeant Gertsch was mortally wounded by enemy fire. Without Staff Sergeant Gertsch’s courage, ability to inspire others, and profound concern for the welfare of his men, the loss of life among his fellow soldiers would have been significantly greater.
His conspicuous gallantry, extraordinary heroism, and intrepidity at the cost of his life, above and beyond the call of duty, are in the highest traditions of the U.S. Army and reflect great credit on him and the Armed Forces of his country.”
“For far too long, Staff Sergeant John Gertsch’s selfless sacrifices for his platoon, his Commonwealth and his country have been unjustifiably ‘Missing In Honor’ from Soldiers Grove where they rightfully belong,” said Rapp. “I would like to thank Speaker Emeritus John Perzel, Adjutant General Jessica Wright, Rick O’Leary, Edgar Burris, Howard Brush and the members of the John Gertsch Memorial Home Association for their cooperation and support in making this long overdue victory for Sergeant Gertsch and other yet to be honored Pennsylvania military heroes possible.”
Rep. Kathy Rapp
65th District
Pennsylvania House of Representatives

(814) 723-5203
(717) 787-1367
Contact: Ty McCauslin
House Republican Public Relations
(717) 772-9979