By Chelsea Place, PentagramMarch 28, 2011
ARLINGTON, Va. (Army News Service, March 28, 2011) - About 30 Medal of Honor recipients gathered at Arlington National Cemetery March 25 for a ceremony to mark the fourth National Medal of Honor Day and to recognize several other citizens who demonstrated selfless service.
Five Medal of Honor recipients and Commandant of the Marine Corps Gen. James F. Amos laid a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknowns just after 2 p.m. Friday and also presented the "Citizen Service Before Self" Honors Awards.
Every year, the awards are presented during National Medal of Honor Day to three Americans who have done something extraordinary for someone else. This year, the award was presented to Timothy Brooks of Philadelphia, Pa., and to representatives of Marie Conley of Boston, Mass., and Dr. Pascal Spino of Greensburg, Pa.
Brooks saved a mother and her three children stranded in the Delaware River after their tour boat collided with a barge and sank on July 7, 2010.
Conley, a Boston police civilian school-crossing traffic supervisor, sacrificed her own life protecting a young boy she was helping to cross the street on his way to school from an oncoming vehicle. Conley's son, Marine Corps Cpl. Christopher Conley, accepted the award in her honor as other family members watched.
Spino was recognized for caring for thousands of children during his 60-year career as a pediatrician, providing free healthcare to those who could not afford it and donating the multiple medical devices he invented to treat infants. Spino was not able to attend due to health issues. However, his son, Domenic Spino, accepted the award on behalf of his father.
Also recognized was Jack Pape, a 17-year-old Boy Scout from Omaha, Neb., who was presented the Congressional Medal of Honor Foundations' American Spirit Award for his actions in 2008 and 2009.
Pape provided first aid to other injured Boy Scouts when a tornado touched down at the Little Sioux Scout Ranch in Little Sioux, Iowa, where they were staying. In 2009 he also performed CPR to a young man who stopped breathing while at a hotel swimming pool.
"I'm very thankful to receive this award today and I am honored to be surrounded by heroes as I receive this award," said Pape.
With hundreds of onlookers standing at the Tomb of the Unknowns and a handful of honored guests attending the ceremony, everyone watched as the four recipients were honored.
"If you look at the east side of the [Tomb of the Unknowns] you will see a relief sculpture of three Greek citizens representing the virtues of peace, victory and valor," said Amos. "To show the length between anonymous heroism in and out of uniform, the Congressional Medal of Honor Society has placed these figures on the Citizen Service before Self Honors medal."
"It was extremely moving. [It's] wonderful to live in a country where people are honored by their deeds. I wish more countries' brave people were respected and honored as they are in the U.S.," said Beatrice Selby, a resident of Romania visiting the United States.
Major Elliot Garrett, congressional correspondent for the National Journal, was the master of ceremonies for the event.
"March 25 - 148 years ago to the day since the Medal of Honor was first bestowed upon Pvt. Jacob Parrott," said Amos. "Since that day there have been only 3,454 recipients of the Congressional Medal of Honor."
Medal of Honor recipient Harold Fritz said he thinks it's important to recognize those who don't wear the uniform . He said the Citizen Service Before Self Honor Award recognizes "those that perhaps will never wear the uniform or those that have worn the uniform but are still continuing to look at that spark, that element within in their grasp."
Fritz was awarded the Medal of Honor March 1971 by President Richard Nixon.
"In my case, I was with a small unit of mechanized cavalry Soldiers and we got into a very tight situation," said Fritz.
He was a platoon leader with the 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment, near Quan Loi, Vietnam, when his seven-vehicle armored column was ambushed along Highway 13. Although his lead vehicle was hit and he was seriously wounded, according to his citation, Fritz leaped to the top of the burning vehicle to direct the positioning of his vehicles.
He ran from vehicle to vehicle to reposition his men, assist the wounded and distribute ammunition, to direct fire, and to provide encouragement to his men. When a strong enemy force assaulted the position and attempted to overrun it Fritz manned a machine gun.
Fritz said out of the 28 Soldiers present, only five were able to stand and fight the enemy. Odds of being killed were high, but many survived and were able to attain a lot of intelligence from captured enemy fighters.
Fritz served with the 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment, the Blackhorse regiment, commanded by then Col. George S. Patton III, the son of World War II's Gen. George S. Patton Jr.
Only 85 Medal of Honor recipients are still living. Awarded by the president of the United States, the medal is the highest award for valor presented to those who serve in the military.
(Chelsea Place writes for the Pentagram newspaper at Joint Base Myer/Henderson Hall.)