Medal of Honor Convention Comes To Chicago: Singular Moment of Courage, a Lifetime of Honor
August 26, 2009
By OCPA Midwest
Boeing hosts August 13 showing of "Medal of Honor" film in Grant Park
More than 50 of America's most distinguished combat veterans will be honored September 15-19 in Chicago as the Congressional Medal of Honor Society brings the compelling story of these heroes' sacrifice and "service over self" to life at its annual convention. Beginning with a series of pre-convention events including public exhibits at the Pritzker Military Library and O'Hare Airport, a special August 13th Movie in the Park showing of the film "Medal of Honor" and school visits by recipients, the Convention Host Committee has planned a fitting salute for these amazing individuals while at the same time thanking all military personnel for their service to our nation.
Nearly 147 years ago, President Abraham Lincoln signed Senate Joint Resolution No. 82, officially creating the Medal of Honor. To date, 3,447 Medals have been awarded to recognize the supreme valor of those who, in the words of so many citations, distinguish themselves "conspicuously by gallantry and intrepidity...at the risk of their lives...above and beyond the call of duty while engaged in an action against an enemy of the United States."
"While many people today look elsewhere for heroes in professional sports or in Hollywood, these recipients deserve our respect for their extraordinary actions in combat," says Ed Tracy, Medal of Honor Convention Co-Chair. "In an instant, each one set a standard for commitment and service to country that honors all veterans, and particularly, those with whom they served who did not come home."
Underscoring the Convention theme Commit to Courage, film director Roger Sherman said that while most people would agree that a Medal of Honor recipient is a hero, "every recipient I've met would categorically deny their heroism. They say they were just doing their job...and that the Medal is worn proudly for everyone who has ever served in uniform."
The Distinguished History of the Medal of Honor
Since being established in July 1862, the Medal of Honor has been awarded to only 3,447 of the country's 42 million Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Marines and Coast Guardsmen. Over 80 percent of the medals awarded since World War II have been posthumous. Today, the ranks of the Society stand at fewer than 100 recipients. By sharing their stories, true courage and sacrifice takes center stage.
Mike Thornton, a Navy Seal recipient in Vietnam, responded immediately upon learning that his commander Tom Norris was presumed dead from an enemy ambush. Thornton ran directly into intense enemy fire to rescue Norris and then swam 2 1/2 hours with him and another comrade on his back to safety. Years later, Norris himself would be awarded the Medal for an earlier declassified action.
When incoming fire placed Gary Littrell in command in Vietnam against a vicious enemy offensive, one witness statement said simply "Littrell was everywhere" exposing himself to intense fire during the hours-long battle, directing troops, providing radio support, ammunition, evacuation of wounded, ...and in the end, Littrell was never wounded...in his words "not a scratch."
The Medal's history and several of its recipients are featured in the film "Medal of Honor" which will be shown for free in Grant Park on August 13 at 8 p.m. "Besides exploring the Medal's history, the PBS documentary captures the extraordinary acts of courage of 13 service personnel who received the Medal," explains Rick Stephens, a former Marine and a senior vice president at Boeing, which is the movie's and Convention's title sponsor. "We're honored we can help tell their story."
Illinois recipient Allen Lynch, the Society's Host Committee liaison, notes that Medal recipients each year travel domestically and abroad, individually and in groups, to participate in outreach activities with veterans groups, schools and military organizations. At the Chicago convention, more than 50 Medal recipients will attend and meet directly with military, veterans, students, business leaders and the general public in a variety of events.
"The convention furthers the bond of brotherhood and camaraderie among the recipients and their families," says Lynch. "Our goal is to foster patriotism, to inspire the members of our communities, and to recognize and award outstanding citizens. It's an honor to simply stand among these heroes."
A Busy Convention Week
The convention week promises to be a busy one, beginning with the opening ceremony at Soldier Field on September 15, hosted by Mayor Richard M. Daley. On September 16, many of the city's public schools and all of the JROTC academies will join with other public venues to host recipient site visits. On Thursday, September 17, recipients will be guests at the Chicago Cubs-Milwaukee Brewers game at Wrigley Field.
The Convention will culminate on Saturday, September 19 with activities around POW/MIA Day at First Division Museum in Cantigny. Actor Gary Sinise will serve as the master of ceremonies at the Patriot Award Dinner that evening where the Society's most prestigious awards will be presented. The Patriot Award, recognizing a lifetime of outstanding service to the armed forces, will be presented to Mayor and Mrs. Richard M. Daley; The Tex McCrary Award to journalist and historian Rick Atkinson; The Citizenship Award to Richard Duchossois of Arlington Park; and The Bob Hope Award to Chicago's own, Bill Kurtis.
More information: http://www.cmoh2009chicago.com/