Woman from Brainerd Posthumously Receives Congressional Gold Medal for WWII Service
Lieutenant Colonel Hortense McKay was posthumously awarded the Congressional Gold Medal this past Saturday at the Gichi-Ziibi Center for the Arts in Brainerd. The ceremony was a patriotic event, meant to both honor the late McKay for her heroism during World War II in the Philippines and celebrate her life in the surrounding community.
Congressional Gold Medals are hard to come by. Only about 200 people have earned the prestigious award, among them George Washington, Winston Churchill, and the Doolittle Raiders.
Hortense McKay is the sixth Brainerd High School alumna to receive the award, but she is the first woman to do so. The ceremony and celebration happened during the 150th anniversary of Brainerd Public Schools and during Women’s History Month.
“She sets a foundation for which many of us stand on her shoulders,” said Major General Johnanna P. Clyborne. “She served at a time when women were capped in the ability to serve and yet she served, nonetheless. The opportunities for advancement for her were limited. The conditions were harsh, yet she didn’t complain. She showed us that women can serve no matter what the hardship.”
Over 20 family members were in attendance for the ceremony. Her niece, Patricia McKay-Broback, accepted the medal on her behalf. But she says it’s an award Hortense would have felt she didn’t deserve it.
“She went and did the job she was supposed to do,” said McKay-Broback. “And she was always somebody that you just carried on and you did it … she’d tell everybody to carry on and wonder, you know, who should have gotten it instead of she?”
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