$1,000 reward for whoever can craft commemorative coin of Sgt. Henry Johnson (WRGB CBS 6 News)

The following TV news segment was originally broadcast on CBS6 News WRGB Albany

by Steve Maugeri

March 21st 2018 — A contest is now underway honoring one of the Capital Region’s greatest war heroes. Ferris Coin Company in Albany announced they’re handing out two $1,000 prizes for whoever can design the best commemorative coin for the late Sergeant Henry Johnson, who served in World War I.

It will only be about an inch and a half in diameter, but the meaning of it will be much larger. Ferris Coin Company co-owner Geoffrey Demis says a commemorative coin of Sgt. Henry Johnson can do much more than add to his legacy.

"It actually allows artists and their views. And people can do some research and to see what Henry Johnson did,” Demis said.

Johnson enlisted in the only all African-Amercian infantry unit in World War I. They'd later be nicknamed the “Harlem Hellfighters.”

He fiercely fought out off more than a dozen German soldiers at once, during what would be dubbed “The Battle of Henry Johnson."

"Johnson continued to fire his rifle until he ran out of ammunition or that it jammed, in which point he turned to use it as a club until he broke the stock,” said Aaron Nobel, senior historian of the New York State Museum.

He suffered more than 20 injuries while protecting a fellow soldier. Johnson was awarded France's highest award for valor. But he never lived to see the day his country gave him that honor.

"Part of the legacy of Henry Johnson ultimately becomes the fact that he was forgotten by the nation."

President Bill Clinton posthumously awarded Johnson a purple heart in 1996.

Then finally in 2015:

"No one who serves our country should ever be forgotten,” said President Barack Obama at a ceremony.

President Barack Obama gave Johnson the Medal of Honor, the nation's highest honor, close to a century after Johnson first enlisted.

A team of five judges will evaluate the coin design submissions.

The deadline to submit is April 17th. There's no limit on how many people can enter.

Duncan Crary