Although its history in Arizona is rife with iconic names like Geronimo and Cochise, few people know much about our state’s ties with the Medal of Honor — the nation’s highest military decoration.
A new exhibit at Arizona Historical Society Museum at Papago Park aims to change that.
Between 1862 and 1889, some 157 United States Army officers and enlisted men earned the Medal for actions that took place in Arizona. Some of their stories are commemorated in the show, which includes four actual Medals of Honor earned by a diverse mix of military service members in actions conducted in Arizona or by state natives at war abroad.
Supporting the medals are graphically rich displays, multimedia presentations and other historic artifacts that tell stories of service and heroism from the days of the Arizona Territory through Vietnam.
The earliest action that ever resulted in the award of a Medal of Honor in Arizona occurred in 1861, when Dr. Bernard Irwin led troops to rescue comrades engaged in a fierce fight with Cochise and his warriors.
Of the four Medals on display, one of these was buried under a layer of dirt and discovered by chance by a modern-day treasure hunter with a metal detector. The story of its recipient remains almost completely unknown.
The exhibition is on display for a limited time; it will travel for the next two and a half years to AHS museums at Tucson, Yuma and Flagstaff, and to the Sharlot Hall Museum in Prescott in six month intervals.
The AHS hopes to attract more than 100,000 people to see the exhibit as it travels around Arizona.
IF YOU GO
What: Above and Beyond: Arizona and the Medal of Honor, an exhibit detailing the history of the nation’s highest military decoration in Arizona
When: Open 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays and noon to 4 p.m. Sundays. Closed Mondays and state holidays.
Where: Arizona Historical Society Museum at Papago Park, 1300 N. College Ave., Tempe
Cost: $4-$5 per adult, $4 for kids ages 12-18, free for children 11 and younger. Two-for-one admission is offered the first Tuesday of every month.
Information: (480) 929-9499 or ArizonaHistoricalSociety.org