2009 Congressional Medal of Honor Society Convention, Chicago IL
October 8, 2009
Story and photos by Sgt. 1st Class Andy Yoshimura, 416th Theater Engineer Command
The Congressional Medal of Honor Society held its 51st Annual Congressional Medal of Honor Convention in Chicago, Ill. Over 50 Medal of Honor Recipients across the nation attended the convention. Assigned to each recipient was a service member who helped escort these men and their family members around the fine city of Chicago.
Most of the recipients arrived by plane and were greeted by their escorts at the airport. Many of the recipients were welcomed to Chicago with open arms, but for Mr. James A. Taylor and his wife Sandy, they were welcomed with a water cannon explosion. As their plane pulled up to the gate, Chicago fire engines surrounded the plane and sprayed water with their fire hoses ceremoniously over the aircraft. On any other day, this would be an emergency procedure but for this day it was a ceremonial tribute for Mr. Taylor. As Mr. Taylor deplaned, he was met with a salute from his military escort, Sergeant First Class Andy Yoshimura a 416th Theater Engineer Command Soldier, and then a swarm of salutes from Chicago firemen. When Mr. Taylor walked in the terminal hundreds of passengers waiting for other flights gave him a well deserved standing ovation.
During their five days in Chicago, the recipients stayed busy with many activities stemming from the Commit to Courage Opening Ceremony at Soldier Field, a visit to Wrigley Field, a memorial service at the Fourth Presbyterian Church and Finishing off with the Patriot Award Dinner. Mr. Taylor stated he thought the most important event was the Public Outreach Event in which he visited students at Paul Revere Accelerated Middle School in Chicago. "I really enjoy talking to young students who will be our future leaders." said Taylor, "Just talking to the kids is an enjoyment to what I do."
Another important day for Mr. Taylor and the recipients was a memorial service at the Fourth Presbyterian Church in Chicago for those Medal of Honor Society members who had passed away this year. Mr. Taylor had the responsibility to escort the widow of James E. Swett who was his friend and fellow Medal of Honor recipient. "She is a close friend to our family and we are here to support her." said Taylor.
The week ended with the Patriot Award Dinner emceed by Gary Sinise. This sold out black tie event recognized all of the Medal of Honor recipients in attendance and also recognized civilians who had contributed their hard work toward the military.
True leaders always look after their Soldiers. Captain Taylor did such November 9, 1967 in Vietnam when he rescued wounded men in three separate burning vehicles.
What does it mean to be Congressional Medal of Honor recipient' To Mr. Taylor, being a recipient of such an award does not change the leadership or the personality of an individual. "This award is worn on behalf of every service member that has worn a uniform." said Taylor, "I am just the safe keeper of the medal. On any day during any time, a true soldier will do what I have done."