Two men with Huntsville ties to be honored with Alabama DAR's Medal of Honor
AUBURN -- A soldier who chronicled a year in Iraq for The Huntsville Times, and a Marshall County businessman who helped finance the Tennessee Valley Honor Flights will be honored by the Daughters of the American Revolution.
Lt. Chris Cunningham, an Army reservist from Atlanta, and Davis Lee of Union Grove, who donated $200,000 to help fly more than 1,300 Huntsville-area veterans to the World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C., will receive the Alabama DAR Medal of Honor.
Cunningham and Lee will receive the awards at the Alabama DAR's National Defense luncheon at the Auburn University Conference Center on March 9.
Davie Williams of Huntsville, National Division Vice Chair of DAR's Southern Americanism Committee, said Monday the Medal of Honor is given to someone who has "made unusual and lasting contributions to our American heritage by truly giving of themselves to their community, state, country and fellow men."
Mary Ann Thompson Wright, the president general of the national DAR, and Marguerita Poole Horton, the DAR's state regent, will present the awards.
Cunningham was a platoon leader in Iraq for the 375th Engineering Battalion, which helped in the rebuilding of the war-torn nation.
During his year in Iraq, Cunningham wrote a weekly "Soldier's Diary" that was published in The Times, describing the activities of the 135-member unit.
The unit left Huntsville April 14, 2009, then spent a month and a half training in the United States before arriving in Kuwait June 1, then Iraq June 16. It returned in April 2010.
Cunningham, 27, said Monday he was surprised and humbled by the award.
"I did the best I could to keep the people back home and in Huntsville involved in our story," he said. "I was overwhelmed in terms of the support and care packages we received."
Since returning from Iraq, Cunningham has transferred to a new combat engineer reserve unit in Chattanooga, Tenn. He said he plans to be in Auburn for the DAR presentation.
Lee, 71, whose contributions helped send more than 1,300 Huntsville-area WWII veterans to visit the memorial built in their honor, owns multiple poultry processing plants. He could not be immediately reached for comment.
He is also a partner in Liberty's Legacy, a nonprofit organization that raises money for schools by selling eight-inch replicas of the Statue of Liberty that contain construction materials from the statue's refurbishment in 1984.
As part of his Liberty Learning Foundation, Lee also produced a documentary film, "Still Standing," that highlights personal interviews and first-hand accounts of WWII.
Lee also is involved in raising money for the Ellis Island Foundation for the upkeep of the Statue of Liberty.