NY National Guard joins family of WWI Medal of Honor Recipient William Shemin for Commemoration


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Medal of Honor Recipient Sgt. William Shemin

NEW YORK (09/24/2017) (readMedia)-- Family members of the World War I Medal of Honor recipient Sgt. William Shemin gather today to commemorate the service of Shemin and fellow Medal of Honor recipient and New York National Guard soldier Sgt. Henry Johnson.

The two WWI soldiers received the Medal of Honor in June 2015 in a White House ceremony meant to address the perceived anti-Semitism and racial prejudice of the early 20th Century.

The commemoration will be joined by representatives of the modern-day 369th Sustainment Brigade of the New York National Guard, the legacy unit of Henry Johnson's Harlem Hellfighters.

Deputy Brigade Commander Lt. Col. Shawn Shutts and a brigade color guard will participate in the commemoration with the Shemin family.

WHAT: Family commemoration and dedication of memorial trees to honor Medal of Honor recipients Sgts. William Shemin and Henry Johnson.

WHEN: 1:15 pm this Sunday, September 24, 2017.

WHERE: Baron Hirsch Cemetery, 1126 Richmond Ave, Staten Island, NY 10314


The Shemin family gathers in New York City this weekend to visit the recently opened exhibit at the American Jewish Historical Society entitled 1917: the Year that Changed the World. The display includes items of Medal of Honor recipient Sgt. William Shemin.

The family was so taken by the story of fellow Medal of Honor recipient Henry Johnson that this weekend's commemoration includes a memorial tree planted in honor of Johnson's service in the cemetery that holds the final resting place of William Shemin.

Sgt. William Shemin

William Shemin was born in Bayonne, New Jersey, Oct. 14, 1896. During his teenage years, Shemin played semi-pro baseball. He graduated from the New York State Ranger School in 1914, and went on to work as a forester in Bayonne. After the United States entered World War I, Shemin enlisted in the Army, Oct. 2, 1917. Upon completion of basic training at Camp Greene, North Carolina, he was assigned as a rifleman to Company G, 47th Infantry Regiment, 4th Infantry Division, American Expeditionary Forces, in France.

During Shemin's service, he participated in the Aisne-Marne Offensive, where he took shrapnel and was wounded by a machine gun bullet that pierced his helmet and was lodged behind his left ear. Following his injuries, Shemin was hospitalized for three months.

Shemin was honorably discharged in August 1919, and went on to get a degree from the New York State College of Forestry at Syracuse University. After graduation, he started a greenhouse and landscaping business in Bronx, New York, where he raised three children. Shemin died in 1973.

Sgt. Henry Johnson

Born William Henry Johnson in Winston Salem, North Carolina, Johnson moved to New York as a teenager. He worked various jobs - as a chauffeur, soda mixer, laborer in a coal yard, and a redcap porter at Albany's Union Station. He enlisted in the U.S. Army, June 5, 1917, and was assigned to Company C, 15th New York (Colored) Infantry Regiment - an all-black National Guard unit that would later become the 369th Infantry Regiment.

The 369th Infantry Regiment was ordered into battle in 1918, and Johnson and his unit were brigaded with a French army colonial unit in front-line combat. Johnson served one tour of duty to the western edge of the Argonne Forest in France's Champagne region, from 1918-1919.

For his battlefield valor, Johnson became one of the first Americans to be awarded the French Croix de Guerre avec Palme, France's highest award for valor.

Johnson returned home from his tour and was unable to return to his pre-war porter position due to the severity of his 21 combat injuries. Johnson died in July 1929. He is buried in Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Virginia.