WATERTOWN, N.Y. -- Community members gathered with a New York state leader Thursday at the Jefferson County Historical Society to honor 15 Medal of Honor recipients from the North Country.

State Sen. Patty Ritchie, 48th District, helped unveil the society's newest exhibit, "Hometown Heroes."

"Thank you to the historical (society) for opening your doors and putting this on display. It's very important that we take the time to honor those who have served the country," Ritchie said.

Fifteen heroes adorn a wall inside the historic home that houses the Jefferson County Historical Society. In the center of the exhibit is a document signed by President Abraham Lincoln, who helped establish the Medal of Honor, according to Bill Wood, Jefferson County Historical Society executive director.

"This is a wonderful time for us, because every time we open a new exhibit, we get excitement from all different avenues," he said. "Today, we're opening the exhibit … 'Hometown Heroes.' It's really a great honor for us to have this exhibit here because of all the service that has been offered by so many people over the course of history throughout the North Country."

The idea to recognize local military heroes came from Ritchie's staff's research for Fort Drum Day, which was held May 23 at the New York State Senate in Albany.

"When we were researching to put together Fort Drum Day, we started learning about the Medal of Honor recipients from my district," Ritchie explained. "I was truly amazed to see that out of 3,500 (recipients), one in four come from New York state."

What Ritchie found more impressive was that 45 Medal of Honor recipients hail from her district, which is made up of Jefferson, St. Lawrence and Oswego counties.

"I think it's truly amazing," she said. "It's an honor to have these people (from) the district I represent. Fort Drum and 10th Mountain Division are also in the district I represent."

Those recognized include Dr. Mary Walker Edwards, Oswego, the only woman to receive the award; Pvt. Joseph Lonsway, Sackets Harbor, and Fort Drum's own Sgt. 1st Class Jared C. Monti, who served with 3rd Squadron, 71st Cavalry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team.

"I also grew up near the farm of Gen. Newton Martin Curtis," Ritchie added. "For years, I rode my bike past the marker, and I really had no idea what the significance was until we got to do this project. I got to learn a little bit of history myself.

"It's a point of pride. We're also privileged to have Fort Drum here, and I think we need to take every opportunity to thank those who serve and those who served in the past," she continued. "This is just an opportunity to learn some history about the area and how local people have contributed to the country and the way it is now."

When putting the exhibit together, Ritchie's staff members chose a few recipients from each county.

"It was kind of hard to pick 15 out of 45, but we wanted to keep (the exhibit) small enough for people to house it without taking up too much space," she noted. "Now that we know there is such an overwhelming response and interest in it, I'm sure we'll be expanding on it next year."

Ritchie expressed the importance of community members of all ages to learn about how local people have shaped the nation's history. She and her staff also drafted a piece of legislation to name the highways across New York state after the Medal of Honor recipients.

Similar exhibits also can be seen in St. Lawrence and Oswego counties. For more information about the exhibit in Watertown, call the Jefferson County Historical Society at 782-3491.

For additional information about the Hometown Heroes project, visit Ritchie's website at www.nysenate.gov/senator/patty-ritchie.