On Monday, November 11th during a Veterans Day Assembly, Monroe Middle School will remember their namesake, James Howard Monroe and the receipt of his Medal of Honor. Monday’s guest speaker is Veteran John Kelly, who fought alongside Monroe in the Vietnam War. The school anticipates the attendance of Monroe’s niece, Michelle Gattas as well.
James Howard Monroe, fondly known as “Jimmy,” was a Wheaton resident who graduated from Wheaton Central High School in 1962. While studying political science at Washington & Lee University in Lexington, Virginia, Jimmy was drafted into the United States Army in the Summer of 1966 and served as a Private First Class Medic during the Vietnam War.
On the evening of February 16, 1967 in South Vietnam, Monroe’s platoon came under heavy artillery and grenade fire during a night ambush. Ignoring the enemy, Monroe began to treat wounded men, specifically a radio operator and his platoon sergeant when he noticed a live grenade fall directly in their foxhole. Monroe warned those nearby of the grenades and then pushed his sergeant and radio operator to one side, lunging forward to smother the grenade’s blast with his body. This act of bravery and selflessness earned Monroe the Medal of Honor that was presented to his family in October 1968.
According to the Congressional Medal of Honor Society website, Jimmy was given this honor “for conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty.” To further honor his bravery and memory, Community Unit School District 200 named Monroe Middle School after James Howard Monroe in 1969.
In 2010, Michelle Gattas, the niece of James Howard Monroe, donated Jimmy’s Medal of Honor and corresponding certificate to the school. In May 2011, the school dedicated a special wall of honor in the front lobby to memorialize Monroe.