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Arkansas group works to improve hometown hero's Medal of Honor memorial

The Marine Corps League in Mena has been raising funds to honor a native son and expand the state's Medal of Honor site in Little Rock.

MENA, Ark. — Of all the thousands of names memorialized for their heroism on Veterans' monuments— there's a small group held in the highest esteem.

The Medal of Honor is bestowed on those who displayed incredible valor. In Arkansas, there are only 29 known recipients.

"The Medal of Honor is not given out lightly," said Paul Garrett, treasurer for the state Medal of Honor Commission, charged with overseeing the memorial at the state capitol.

Garrett, who is also a member of the Marine Corps League detachment in Little Rock, has been working with his fellow commissioners to give the circle of plaques and flying eagle statue some buffing up.

They're getting help from a smaller detachment out to honor a favored son so that all the state's recipients are remembered properly.

"'Hal was born here in Mena July 1, 1930," said Ed Anderson referring to the nickname of Herbert A. Littleton. 

The Marine private first-class was killed in action after going from little towns in Arkansas and South Dakota to a place called Horseshoe Ridge, a few miles from the 38th parallel in Korea.

"The Chinese threw a grenade into the observation post, and Herbert did two things heroic," explained Anderson, a leader with the Marine Corps League detachment in Mena named for Littleton. 

"The first thing, he jumped on the grenade," he added. "But before he did that, he took the radio off, and the last words out of his mouth were 'save with the radio.'"

Anderson remembers the details well because he's a retired radioman himself. He explained how saving the radio saved more lives when its signal allowed an artillery strike soon after.

The Polk County detachment's pride in "Hal's" heroism is obvious. They have been proactive in retelling his story, and that pride is carved in stone and set apart.

At the memorial in Little Rock, where Littleton is honored alongside other Medal of Honor recipients, the signs are obvious that the site for the exceptional is in need of an expansion.

"We have four people that we're currently working to place, in addition to the 25, that's out here right now," said Garrett, who also explained that the plans to do that expansion have been slowed by post-pandemic inflation.

"We're about $25,000 from our goal, which our working goal is about $120,000," he said.

A healthy chunk of the money raised so far came from a discretionary fund controlled by Lt. Gov. Leslie Rutledge, who made the donation while state attorney general.

Anderson heard about the drive when Garrett spoke at a statewide Marine Corps League meeting, and he knew his detachment would step up for "Hal."

"When they built the [Little Rock] monument in 1999 and 2000, in order to cut costs, they didn't use bronze or brass. They used aluminum with a coating on it," he said. "The coating is coming off and it's chipping pretty badly."

So Anderson set up a GoFundMe site to replace Littleton's plaque and change the facial image on the portrait to match a photo selected by his family.

That effort will combine with the commission's statewide drive. Garrett's pitch has been picking up steam as the message gets out.

"These these people that are on here and the people that we're going to add, their heroism is what got them here," he described.

"It'll be nice to have a good proper representation of his sacrifice," said Anderson. "A nice-looking plaque is the least we could ask for to remember 'Hal."

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