ARLINGTON NATIONAL CEMETERY, Va. - Presented with the
nation's highest award for valor, the Medal of Honor, a
group of past recipients joined civilian hometown heroes
being honored at Arlington National Cemetery March 25 for
the National Medal of Honor Day ceremony.
Sgt. 1st Class Leroy Petry (left), Medal of Honor recipient, and Harold Fritz (right) place the Citizen Service Before Self Honors around the neck of Father Joe Carroll, one of the four recipients, during a ceremony at the Women in Military Service for America Memorial March 25,
2013. (Photo by Rachel Larue)
Organized by the Congressional Medal of Honor Foundation,
a group consisting of only MOH recipients, this year's event
paid tribute to four individuals selected for the 2013
Citizen Service Before Self Honors for acts of bravery.
A wreath ceremony was held at the Tomb of the Unknowns
before the award ceremony at the Women in Service to America
Memorial. Maj. Gen. Michael S. Linnington, commander of
Joint Force Headquarters-National Capitol Region and the
Military District of Washington, and MOH recipients Thomas
Kelley, Brian Thacker and Jay Vargas rendered honors as part
of the recognition ceremony.
Keynote speaker for the
event, Marine Corps Sgt. Maj. Bryan B. Battaglia, senior
enlisted advisor to the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of
Staff, spoke of the bravery, patriotism and tenacity of the
servicemembers who have been awarded the prestigious medal.
“Now in its 150th year, the Medal of Honor continues
to represent those national ideals more than ever.
Presented, of course, by our commander in chief on behalf of
Congress, it is our citizen's acknowledgement of the traits
we hold sacred and our nation's most profound expression of
gratitude,” he said.
“The Citizen Service Before
Self Honors seeks out those that demonstrate extraordinary
acts of bravery to save a life or lives, and those who have
given extraordinary service to others through an extended
period of time. This program perpetuates the ideals of a
nation and of the Medal of Honor, and most importantly
recognizes that the cloth of our nation is woven in its
communities,” Battaglia said.
The civilians honored
at the event included Father Joe Carroll of San Diego,
Calif., Marcos Ugarte of Troutdale, Ore., Jesse Shaffer III
and Jesse Shaffer IV, of Braithwaite, La. They were all
honored with the 2013 Citizen Service Before Self Honors.
Carroll opened and ran a homeless support center,
offering assistance, counseling and job training.
Fifteen-year-old Ugarte saved a younger neighbor from a
burning home and the Shaffer father-and-son team used their
boat to rescue 120 people from their flooded town during
Hurricane Issac after official rescue efforts were called
The four honorees were chosen by Medal of Honor
recipients from a pool of 23 finalists from hundreds of hero
nominations across the U.S. between September and December
Air Force Medal of Honor recipient Leo K. Thorsness clasps the Citizen Service Before Self Honors medal around Jesse Shaffer III, as son Jesse Shaffer IV and Army Medal of Honor recipient Harold A. Fritz look on,
March 25, 2013. The Shaffers received the medal for rescuing 120 people by boat from streets that had flooded Braithwaite, La., after Hurricane Isaac swept through their community.
(Photo by J.D. Leipold, Army News Service)
“We're very happy to be accepting this award on behalf of
all the men down in Braithwaite [Louisiana] that were out
there on that [rescue] day with us,” said Jesse Shaffer IV.
He described the time spent with the Medal of Honor
recipients as “incredible.”
Shaffer's father agreed
with his son. “They are a humble group of individuals, and
it's been a good experience spending time with them,” said
Jesse Shaffer III.
“I believe what this [ceremony]
shows is that there are ordinary citizens that do valorous
deeds or dedicated deeds of service and not necessarily wear
the military uniform of the armed services,” said Harold
Fritz, a Medal of Honor recipient who served in the Army's
11th Armored Calvary Regiment during Vietnam.
this country we still have the ability to change fate, to
embrace a situation and take charge, whether it is a
situation like the young man who went into a burning
building or the father and son who saved 120 people in a
flood, or the priest that ran a transitional home for 30
years for homeless veterans. Those are all acts of helping
fellow man, helping save lives. That's what we do to make
this a strong country.”
Of the 80 Medal of Honor
recipients alive today, 21 attended the ceremony.
The Medal of Honor commemorated its 150th anniversary this
year. On March 25, 1863, Pvt. Jacob Parrott was the first of
a group of six men awarded the medal for their actions in
“The Great Locomotive Chase” of April 1862 during the Civil
By Rhonda Apple, Pentagram Staff Writer
Army News Service
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