Guest column submitted by U.S. Senator Mike Crapo
On the evenings of February 12-17, 2023, a lone bugler dressed in historic uniform stood amid the World War I Memorial in Washington, D.C., and played the reflective and heartrending Taps in honor of Idaho’s own Private Thomas Croft Neibaur of Sugar City, Idaho. This daily tribute honors Americans who served in World War I, and all of our servicemembers. After learning Private Neibaur was going to be honored and reviewing his prodigious record of service, I am reminded that we walk in the footprints of exceptional Americans who served our country with the upmost distinction and fortitude.
I received word of the tribute from Idahoans Frank Krone and Kasi Picard. Pvt. Neibaur is the namesake of a Memorial and Park in Sugar City, Idaho, and American Legion Post 26 in Mountain Home. He is among a notable group of 48 Medal of Honor recipients with significant Idaho attachments. The Idaho Military Museum maintains a list of Idahoans awarded the Medal of Honor, our nation’s highest military award for valor in action.
Frank Krone and Kasi Picard shared a report of Pvt. Neibaur’s service, including a copy of the citation that accounts his brave and selfless actions through harrowing conditions in which he earned the Medal of Honor. Importantly, the Idaho Military Museum notes, the Medal of Honor is “earned, not won, by performing a deed of personal bravery or self-sacrifice, above and beyond the call of duty . . .”
On October 16, 1918, Pvt. Neibaur was on a mission to disable enemy machinegun nests near Landres-et-St. Georges, France. Despite suffering wounds in both legs and facing overwhelming odds, he played a pivotal role in stopping an enemy attack. As his Medal of Honor citation reads, “The advance wave of the enemy troops, counterattacking, had about gained the ridge, and although practically cut off and surrounded, the remainder of his detachment being killed or wounded, this gallant soldier kept his automatic rifle in operation to such effect that by his own efforts and by fire from the skirmish line of his company, at least 100 yards in his rear, the attack was checked.” He then dispatched four enemy soldiers who attacked him at close range and captured 11 prisoners at the point of his pistol. The citation concludes, “The counterattack in full force was arrested to a large extent by the single efforts of this soldier, whose heroic exploits took place against the skyline in full view of his entire battalion.”
Pvt. Neibaur returned to Sugar City to a welcome of 10,000 people and a state-wide holiday proclaimed ‘Neibaur Day’ by the Governor. However, like many veterans, his life following service was challenging. The World War I Centennial Commission wrote, “Neibaur was wounded by machine gun fire and teargas, and his disabilities contributed to his death alone in a Veterans Hospital of TB on December 23, 1942, at age 44.” Idaho Magazine contains an article by Linden B. Bateman viewable at https://www.idahomagazine.com/article/idaho-remembers/ that also contains an account of Pvt. Neibaur’s life following his military service. As we honor the service of Idaho’s veterans, we cannot let up in working to ensure federal policies respect their extraordinary service and properly support their return home.
For many months, Kasi Picard has been watching the daily Taps being played at the World War I Memorial. Kasi shared the following eloquent observation, “Everyone in attendance and online realize how much Americans revere and honor our veterans, deceased and living and the debt we owe to the men and women who protect and defend our liberties and freedoms today.” I, too, honor the committed service of Idaho’s own men and women in uniform, exemplified by Medal of Honor recipient Pvt. Neibaur.
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