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Design contest for Albany, N.Y., war hero medal

A medallion design competition with prizes of $1,000 for each side is being held by the Ferris Coin Company of Albany, N.Y.

To be honored is an African American hero of World War I, Sgt. Henry Johnson.

During his lifetime, he was awarded France’s Croix de Guerre avec Palme for his outstanding valor during the war.

The United States did not recognize him until long after his death in 1929.

He was given the Purple Heart in 1996, the Distinguished Service Cross in 2002 and the Medal of honor in 2015.

Unlike government, artists have to act quickly.

Submissions are due April 17.

Co-owner of Ferris Coin Geoffrey Demis said the obverse should feature an accurate likeness of Sgt. Henry Johnson based on historical photographs in the public domain.

Also, it needs to say “Sgt. Henry Johnson,” “Enlisted 05 JUN 1917” and “Albany, NY.”

Demis said the reverse is more open to artistic expression.

Under the contest guidelines, artists should clearly and creatively interpret concepts such as duty, honor, sacrifice or civic responsibility.

Artists are further encouraged to symbolize a connection between Johnson’s commitment to duty and the civic duty each of us shares today in order to inspire forward thinking about our own community involvement.

Contestants must be 18 or older.

The official rules, design requirements and answers to frequently asked questions can be found here.

Send questions to

Judging the entries will be done by a jury of professional artists and a representative of the 369th Veteran’s Association.

Five hundred of the silver medallions will be made and sold this summer.

A portion of the proceeds will go to the 369th Veteran’s Association Inc., Albany District, a 501(c)3.

Ten will be donated to the City of Albany, which will on June 5, 2018, celebrate its second annual Henry Johnson Day.

This day will be marked by a ceremony bestowing the Henry Johnson Award for Distinguished Community Service.

The recipient will be given one of the new medallions.

Sgt. Johnson joined the U.S. Army's 369th Infantry and was sent to France.

There, on May 15, 1918, while on night sentry duty in the Argonne Forest, Johnson and one other soldier, Pvt. Needham Roberts, were attacked by a German raiding party consisting of at least 12 soldiers.

Johnson was wounded multiple times but using only a knife was able to drive off the Germans.

Ultimately, he was wounded 21 times during the war.

Details of his bravery can be found here.

His heroism was noted in a book shortly after the war written by Theodore Roosevelt Jr.

Rank and File – True Stories of the Great War can be found on Amazon.

Sgt. Johnson is buried at Arlington National Cemetery, but his story lives on in Albany, N.Y.

Whoever can tell this story of heroism best in silver will be the winning artist.

Good luck to all entrants.

Buzz blogger Dave Harper won the Numismatic Literary Guild Award for Best Blog for the third time in 2017 . He is editor of the weekly newspaper "Numismatic News."

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