Sergeant Matej Kocak, USMC, (1882-1918)
Matej Kocak was born on 31 December 1882 in Gbely, Slovakia (then part of the Austrio-Hungarian Empire). Emigrating to the United States in 1906, he enlisted from New York in the U.S. Marine Corps a year later. Following training, his first duty station was at the Marine Barracks, League Island, Pennsylvania, then transferred to the Marine Barracks, New York Navy Yard, New York. During the intervention at Vera Cruz, Mexico, in April 1914, Kocak had temporary duty with the U.S. Army until November. In late December 1915, he was assigned to the Marine Barracks, Naval Station, New Orleans, Louisiana. From mid-1916 until the end of the year, he participated in the Dominican Campaign. In March 1917, Kocak was promoted to Corporal and received orders to Quantico, Virginia.
In June 1918, Kocak was promoted to Sergeant while serving with the Sixty-Sixth Company, Fifth Regiment, Second Division Marines in France during World War I. On 18 July, during action in the Viller-Cottertes section, south of Soissons, France, his company was halted by enemy gun fire from a hidden machine gun nest. While only covered by gun fire, Kocak went forward alone and rushed the enemy position with his bayonet, eventually driving off the enemy. Later on that same day, he organized French colonial soldiers separated from their company and led an attack disabling a second machine gun nest. For his "extraordinary heroism" on both of these occasions, he was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor by both the U.S. Navy and the U.S. Army. On 4 October 1918, Kocak was killed in action at the Battle of Blanc Mont Ridge in France and is buried at Meuse Argonne American Cemetery, Romagne, France.