WASHINGTON, D.C. — Members of Oregon's congressional delegation have introduced legislation to rename the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) clinic in Bend after World War II veteran, Medal of Honor recipient, and Bend native Bob Maxwell.
Maxwell passed away in May of 2019. Before his death, Maxwell was the oldest living Medal of Honor recipient in the nation — one of only four remaining World War II veterans to have been awarded the medal.
“After the war, Mr. Maxwell returned to civilian life and continued to serve the communities he called home through teaching,” the lawmakers said. “Renaming the VA facility in Bend after Mr. Maxwell would be a fitting tribute to an American hero who meets all the criteria for such an honor.”
U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley and Representative Greg Walden (R-OR-2) led the push for renaming the clinic, with Senator Ron Wyden and Representatives Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR-1), Earl Blumenauer (D-OR-3), Peter DeFazio (D-OR-4), and Kurt Schrader (D-OR-5) supporting the bills.
According to a letter written by the lawmakers and addressed to the Veterans' Affairs Committee, Maxwell was awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions on September 7, 1944, near Besancon, France. Maxwell led a small group of soldiers, armed only with .45 caliber handguns, in defending an observation post against overwhelming odds.
During the skirmish, Maxwell threw himself on top of an enemy grenade to save the lives of his comrades. Though seriously injured by the blast, Maxwell went on to lead a full life, working as an auto mechanic teacher at Bend High School and at Lane Community College.
"For those who had the pleasure of knowing Bob, they know that his bravery and heroism were only matched by his kindness, warmth, and sense of humor," said Rep. Walden. "I was honored to call Bob Maxwell a friend. Bob’s legacy will live on in the hearts and minds of everyone he interacted with and will forever be cherished in the country that he sacrificed so much to protect. It is my hope that this bipartisan legislation will swiftly move to President Trump’s desk and become law — forever ensuring Bob’s legacy is honored and his heroism is remembered."
There are currently six VA medical facilities across the country that are named after Medal of Honor recipients, including Loren R. Kaufman VA Clinic in The Dalles. According to Sen. Merkley's office, the City of Bend, American Legion Department of Oregon, Veterans of Foreign Wars Department of Oregon, and Disabled American Veterans Department of Oregon support the renaming.