Marine on St. Croix veteran and rifle squad founder to receive Presidential Citizens Medal from Obama
The all-volunteer rifle squad that George Weiss Jr. started three decades ago has delivered the final salute at more than 56,400 military burials at Fort Snelling National Cemetery.
Weiss, a World War II veteran, has made it his mission to provide military honors to deceased veterans.
Today, President Barack Obama will recognize him and 12 other people with the Presidential Citizens Medal, the second-highest honor that can be conferred on an American civilian.
Weiss’ desire to start the volunteer rifle squad came after a friend died in 1977 and the local Veterans of Foreign Wars post couldn’t provide military honors at the burial. He pledged to start a memorial squad after he retired. And when he ended his 30-year career as a utility repairman with Ford Motor Co., Weiss formed a memorial squad of six people. It’s now composed of 130 men.
“We don’t know 99 percent of the people we’re burying — they’re strangers,” Weiss said. “But still, we’ve all been in the military, and we try to take care of each other.”
Among this year’s Citizens Medal winners are those who have helped the poor and advocated for deaf children. One honoree is focused on conservation, while another helps young pregnant women with educational training. There is also a Colombian immigrant who regularly feeds about 130 people, and a Sept. 11 widow who has reached out to help widows in Afghanistan.
President Richard Nixon established the award in 1969