National Medal of Honor Day

DID YOU KNOW  The United States Congress has designated March 25th of each year as National Medal of Honor Day, a day dedicated to our nation’s greatest heroes.

WHY MARCH 25th?
On March 25th 1863, six members of Andrew’s Raiders became the first recipients of the Medal of Honor.

HOW YOU CAN PARTICIPATE
Do you celebrate National Medal of Honor Day? Are you wondering how to get involved? Check out a few of our favorite options below:

  • FLY YOUR FLAG (…and if you don’t, have one go buy one!)
  • WATCH A MOVIE OR READ A BOOK. There have been several movies made and books written by and about Medal of Honor recipients.
  • REMEMBER OUR HEROES. As a gesture of your appreciation, take just a few moments to watch a short vignette about a recipient on Vimeo
  • GET STUDENTS INVOLVED. Talk to your kids about what the Medal of Honor is and what it stands for. (If you think students in your community would benefit from being exposed to the values MOH recipients hold dear take a look at the Character Development Program. Training in Minnesota is available twice in April and again in September.)
  • VISIT. If there is a Medal of Honor memorial or plaque near your home, visit! Another option is to research a recipient and visit their gravesite if they are buried nearby.
  • GET PLUGGED IN. Like our  Facebook page and click around our website to stay on top of more MOH news!

 

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Humble Heroes

I open the door to the FAIR school and the first person I see is Tom Kelley. My nerves collide with tremendous excitement as I realize I actually get to meet a Medal of Honor recipient. I catch the eyes of the Chairwoman and she begins to walk Tom Kelley over to me. I can’t help but focus solely on him; everything around me goes into a blur. I feel that a handshake does not suffice for my overwhelming emotions, so I lay my other hand on top of his in hopes that it will convey the utter honor I feel meeting him. His creased smile and warm hands comfort me and put me at ease. I have seen videos and read stories about him, but to finally meet him in person makes it all so real.

In that split second, a scene of Tom flashes across my mind. He’s reaching, not for my hand to shake, but for his brother. Whether it is grabbing the helm to maneuver himself between his men and enemy fire, shaking the hands of his sailors after a long mission at sea or folding them in humble prayer for our country, I know those hands have done incredible and unexplainable things. Hands that shaped history are now shaking my own.

An hour goes by and, as I’m wandering around the building tying up loose ends before the press conference starts, I walk past a room with a handful of middle school students leaning forward in their chairs and Tom Kelley standing in front of them. I peek my head around the doorframe and find a little window between two of the news station cameras to watch the interaction. All eyes are locked on Tom as he tells first-hand accounts of bravery and sacrifice that, prior to this, the students have only read about.

In that moment I feel chills run down my body.  A history book character is literally standing right in front of these students, telling stories and answering their questions. Compelling is too small a word to describe what it is like to watch the younger generation find fascination in the Medal of Honor.

Before I had the opportunity to meet Tom Kelley I heard from multiple people, multiple times, that the recipients are incredibly humble and do not believe they did anything that any one of their teammates would not have done in the same circumstance. To the recipients, the Medal of Honor is not an award; it is a responsibility.  It is not something that they wear for themselves or because they even think they deserve it.  The recipients wear their Medals as a way to honor their teammates, fallen servicemen and women, and thousands of other military members who have served our country and have not been recognized for their heroic actions.

“We are just ordinary people put into extraordinary circumstances who decided to do the right thing,” said Tom Kelley, in between bites of his plain hamburger.  Sitting across the table from him at a hole in the wall diner, having regular conversation, I couldn’t rest my smile. It was in that moment that I truly believed that I was, as an ordinary person, capable of extraordinary things. He and his fellow recipients truly are the definition of humble heroes.

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The MOHTC team at the press conference in February.

 

 

 

 

The Big Red Curtain

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 Two weeks in and I was still impacted by the Medal of Honor recipient’s stories. I had begun to understand my place in this new position. My work days were getting busier and I began to meet more people involved with the Medal of Honor Convention Twin Cities. The big red curtain started to pull back as I saw the people involved behind the scenes of this enormous project.

Sitting in the office one day, I felt a lightness in the air I was breathing. The facial expressions and tones of voice from the Chairwoman and Chief of Staff, the two women I spend most of my working hours with, sitting across from me radiated with passion as they began to fill my head with more knowledge. Smiles swept across their faces as they exchanged military lingo and recited the six characteristics of Medal of Honor recipients. I giggled under my breath as I realized this was truly FUN for them. They were certainly entertaining themselves.

Courage. Commitment. Sacrifice. Patriotism. Integrity. Citizenship.

Staring at the white board and seeing these words written in bold, I began to repeat them over and over again, as if each time I whispered them they were becoming closer and closer to being engraved in my mind. We brainstormed all day on ways to implement these words into schools across the state. After hours of hard work, my scope of knowledge of the Medal of Honor widened even more. I would’ve never guessed there could be a connection between the war heroes and children, but as the pieces fell together I felt that light air again, this time coming from me. 

It felt amazing to finally be starting to grasp what all of this meant. I was not only grasping the logistics but understanding them as well. Just as I whispered to myself that I was finally catching on, something the Chairwoman said grabbed my attention,

 

 “When I talk to people, for the first time, about the Medal of Honor Convention many of them don’t even understand what the Medal of Honor is. Some of them even thought I was talking about a video game.”

 

Just like that, I saw the ultimate goal in these women’s hearts. To them (and now to me), it isn’t just about the Medal of Honor Convention, it’s about educating and inspiring our community for years to come.

I walked out the door that day with a skip in my step and newfound passion gushing from my heart. I realized that while I was suddenly feeling enlightened, I was also troubled by the simple question: Why? We spend a good 13 years learning about our country’s history, but where are these most incredible stories of sacrifice and courage? Why aren’t we taught about our nations greatest heroes? Why aren’t more people aware that there are 77 LIVING recipients that we can still learn from firsthand? Why don’t more people know?

On The Outside Looking In

My name is Kassie and I am your typical 22-year-old woman. I grew up in Minnesota, attended college here, got a four-year degree and set out to find my dream job, like every other recent college grad I know.

With an Event Management degree in hand and four years of non-profit experience I was ready to tackle the dreaded fresh-out-of-college job search, what I hoped would be the first step to fulfilling my dreams. Unfortunately, after three months my fingers were curled to the keyboard and stiff from the carousel of job applications; my opportunites seemed to narrow considerably with each passing day.

A brisk day in November had me in a mix of emotions when I came across a posting for an assistant to a Chairwoman of a new non-profit organization.  She scheduled an interview with me immediately and, after much conversation, she advised me to check out her organization. “Medal of Honor Convention Twin Cities.”  Once I got past the vast title I began to do some researching.  The website radiated with patriotism, which, to someone who knows little about our armed forces, was both enticing and intimidating. I sifted through tabs on the site and came to the simple conclusion that this non-profit must have something to do with an event for people in the military.

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My first day on the job Chairwoman and I were walking through a grocery store when she asked my opinion of the military. In my head I began to think, What does that even mean?  Am I supposed to have an opinion?  No one has ever asked me this before, and my favorite, Who is even included in the “military?”   That last question makes me laugh now but I really had no idea what that broad term meant.  I had a feeling that my new boss was catching on to my naïveté when she handed me a stack of six DVD’s about the Medal of Honor.  I sat down with my computer, stared at the screen and, within fifteen minutes, I was sucked right in…Let me tell you why.

As a born romantic, I have always loved military and war-centric Hollywood movies (Saving Private Ryan being my personal favorite).  To me, without much, if any, direct contact with servicemen and women, the movies were exciting and the sub-plots always captured my heart.  However, while I sat watching DVD after DVD of raw footage of men who have gone above and beyond the call of duty and risked their lives for our country, I became overwhelmed with emotion. For the first time in my life I felt a connection to the military, and I was intrigued.

Starting to grasp the idea of the Medal of Honor and who the recipients are, I still barely understood what the non-profit organization was about. Passion arose within me for this enormous project even without full knowledge of the Medal of Honor Convention.  Day after day I would arrive to work with new questions. With basic knowledge of non-profits working with the military I never thought my talents would fit in, but I began to realize my event management major could come in handy. Watching the two worlds collide, I hit the ground running.

On the outside looking in, I felt I would never obtain enough information to fully understand the “who, what, when, where, why and how” of the Medal of Honor Convention.  Daunting is the appropriate word to use… But, we all have a part to play, we just have to be willing to find it

I encourage you to take a look at this website, even if just to get a laugh imagining me perusing around with an ignorant mind. Click around and see if you find yourself in the same place I did: confused, but oh-so fascinated.

Links:

Website //  http://www.cmohs.org

Vimeo //  https://vimeo.com/13578914