By Jim DresbachApril 1, 2014
ARLINGTON, Va. (April 1, 2014) -- Heroes honored heroes, March 25, at Arlington National Cemetery and the Women in Military Service for America Memorial auditorium.
March 25 is annually remembered as Medal of Honor Day, and 30 Medal of Honor recipients gathered to recognize three U.S. citizens who made life-changing, courageous decisions over the past year. The three were recognized as the 2014 recipients of the Citizens Service Before Self award, which is designed to recognize "everyday citizens."
Honored posthumously was Sparks, Nev., middle school teacher Michael Landsberry, who confronted a gunman and allowed his students to escape to safety. Landsberry, a former Marine and member of the Nevada Air National Guard, was fatally shot Oct. 21, 2013. Accepting the Citizen Honors medal and commendation was Landsberry's widow, Sharon.
California Eagle Scout Connor Stotts was lauded for rescuing three friends from ocean riptide currents, and former Soldier Troy Yocum was honored for his endeavors in assisting military families and veterans struggling with post-traumatic stress disorder and depression.
"These awards serve a critical purpose in our society to honor the selfless service of everyday citizens," said keynote speaker Roger Krone, Boeing Defense, Space and Security president. "Often in today's world, the word 'hero' is used too easily, and its meaning frays in time and becomes lost. Gathering here at Arlington National Cemetery, the final resting place for so many who faithfully served our nation, we renew its meaning by celebrating the actions of the heroes who are all around us."
Before the ceremony, Medal of Medal service members joined the 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard) and The U.S. Army Band, at the Tomb of the Unknowns for a wreath-laying ceremony in a late March snowstorm. Escorted by Joint Force Headquarters-National Capital Region/Military District of Washington Commander Maj. Gen. Jeffrey S. Buchanan, Medal of Honor recipients Gary Beikirch, Hershel Williams, James Taylor and Clinton Romesha placed a wreath of remembrance at the tomb.
Yocum, a native of Louisville, Ky., walked across America to help raise $1.3 million to support military families and currently is heading a community program to build a retreat in Shepherdsville, Ky., for military families scarred by veteran suicides. He is inspired by all who have worn an American military uniform; and specifically, his grandfather, who suffered from PTSD.
"My grandfather was a World War II veteran, and when I was one, he took his own life," Yocum explained. "He suffered from post-traumatic stress for 40 years. Now, my grandfather was always my hero, but growing up, I had so many people telling me athletes and actors are famous and the heroes. I never felt that way. I always felt that veterans are real heroes."
Since the award's inception in 2008, 24 people have received the honor. Nominees considered are those who have committed an act of "extraordinary heroism" clearly demonstrating "a willingness to place his or her own life at risk for others," according to the Congressional Medal of Honor Foundation website.