WASHINGTON, D.C. (WSFA) - Before he walked across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in 2015, President Barrack Obama signed legislation on Air Force One en route to Alabama awarding the Congressional Gold Medal to the foot-soldiers of the civil rights movement.
On Wednesday, both Democrats and Republicans presented the medal to them in Emancipation Hall at the U.S. Capitol.
"The personal sacrifices made by these brave foot soldiers compel this nation to live up to its ideals of equality and justice for all, and ultimately led to the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965," said Rep. Terri Sewell
"Certainly, I feel like I should have stepped forward more and been a leader and a more positive force in the great events that were occurring, but make no mistake, this march was not an easy thing," said Sen. Jeff Sessions.
Designed and struck by the United States Mint, the medal's front side depicts foot soldiers crossing the Edmund Pettus Bridge with the inscription "FOOT SOLDIERS FOR JUSTICE."
The reverse side of the medal represents the result of that march, the Voting Rights Act of 1965 with the inscription "Every American Citizen Must Have an Equal Right to Vote." The quote was taken from President Lyndon B. Johnson's speech to Congress on the Voting Rights Act.
Selma minister Frederick Reese was on hand to accept the medal on behalf of the Civil Rights foot soldiers. He says it was the power of God that led them through the march to today.
"He saw us through many dangers seen and unseen. Brought us over high mountains and over deep waters and allowed us to be here today," Reese said to applause.
Rep. Sewell says there's an easy way all Americans can honor the Civil Rights heroes, and all they fought for.
"While we can never truly repay the foot soldiers for their sacrifices that they have made, we can all pay tribute to them by remembering to vote in every election," Sewell said. "Every election. Local, state and federal."
The medal will soon be on permanent display at the Selma Interpretive Center, but will be allowed to travel to other civil rights exhibits and events as permitted.
If you want a medal of your own, the U.S. Mint is now taking orders online for bronze replicas.