Posts Tagged ‘Medal of Honor Convention’

A Medal of Honor Experience in Gettysburg

Thursday, December 19th, 2013

A Medal of Honor Experience

Written by Tony Mussari, Sr.
Edited by Kitch Loftus-Mussari
Photographs by Kitch Loftus-Mussari
Copyright Mussari-Loftus Associates, LTD, 2013
All Rights Reserved

Any time you’re shooting documentary stuff, you’ve got to be in the
moment you’ve got to be able to be in control enough to
capture what’s happening.
Brian de Palma

Someone once said that making a documentary film is like going war. No matter how much you prepare, something unexpected alwaysDocP_9032 happens. Sometimes it’s weather-related, often it’s just circumstance and frequently it’s just plain old human nature at work.

Location shooting is a pressure cooker filled with explosive ingredients like anxiety, fear, uncertainty and stress. Around every corner there’s a surprise that complicates a potential scene or creates an opportunity. To make the most of these events one must be flexible and adjust.

For six days in September, Kitch and I were on location at the Medal of Honor Convention in Gettysburg, PA. For almost three days, we worked with Junior ROTC Cadets from the North Plainfield High School in New Jersey. It was an incredible opportunity, the fulfillment of a lifetime dream and a challenge unlike anything we have every undertaken.

Were there surprises?  Yes.

Were there unexpected complications? Yes.

Were there a few missteps? Yes.


But overall it was a grand experience. We were able to rub shoulders with some of the most impressive people we have ever met.  We were able to learn what heroism is all about, and we accomplished what we set out to do. Thanks to the contributions of many people we successfully recorded the story of the 150th anniversary of the Medal of Honor in Gettysburg, a place that speaks to honor and valor every day of the year.

Who were these Gettysburg gifts?

Kitch.  She worked though incredible arthritis pain and discomfort, without complaint, to do the things that needed to be done with competence and professionalism.  Because of her dedication and determination, we have a library of 3,420 digital images.

My adopted son Patrick took vacation time to come toPD_9091 Gettysburg and help us record video of the convention events.  Working with less than three hours sleep, he did not miss a beat or a scene during the longest day of the production, 16 hours, on September 19, 2013.

Nancy, Kyle and Ruel provided an unforgettable moment when they walked to the microphone to ask thoughtful questions during the Town Hall Meeting at Gettysburg College.

Jared provided the most compelling and enthusiastic answer to the question, “What did you learn during the convention?”

Adriana wrote the most beautiful gratitude note after she returned home.


Elijah’s every action during the convention spoke to gratitude, learning and teamwork.

Kristin, Lea and their colleagues at the Webster Group did everything in their power to help us get access to the events and the recipients.

Tom Mazur’s quiet demeanor demonstrated a fundamental quality of leadership, “Leading by being led.”

Eric Hansen, the cadet commander, kept a watchful eye on his students while maintaining great interest in the convention events.

Joe the bus driver saved the day when I misplaced the disk for Kitch’s digital camera.

Dana, Ashley, Mary, Angie and Lois made our home away from home, the Hampton Inn, a friendly place for everyone in our group.

Stacey Fox set the tone for our adventure with well-chosen and inspiring words of context and welcome. Her comments about thinking, listening, reflecting and leadership will find a place in our documentary.

Mr. & Mrs. Ted Chamberlain brought Fanny and JoshuaJCS_7871 Chamberlain back to life with authenticity, feeling and historical accuracy. They did it with enthusiasm and a sense of gratitude for the legacy of their heroic ancestor and a willingness to give to the project without expectation of any reward.

Bruce Rice is a man of dedication to the Gettysburg story. Bruce prepared a special presentation about monuments that reflect the values of the Medal of Honor and the 63 soldiers who earned it at Gettysburg. The inconvenience of a late summer cold did not prevent him from conducting a compelling and informative two hour battlefield tour.


Mayor Bill Troxell gave life to the often spoken line at the convention that there are heroes everywhere, and the vast majority of them did not receive a golden pentagram with a blue ribbon. Nevertheless, he reflected the light of the values of the Medal of Honor. Mayor Troxell’s presentation at City Hall added an important dimension to the students’ open air classroom in Gettysburg.

Bob Monahan opened the door to the convention, and he kept it open so we could capture the priceless moments of discovery and transformation.

The recipients every action, word and symbolic gesture spoke in powerful and effective ways about the values associated withMoHR_9224j the Medal of Honor.

When I think about the Face of America on its best day, the faces of the men we met in Gettysburg add depth and substance to the image that will always have a very special place in my heart.

The Medal of Honor Convention in Gettysburg was a classroom like no other in a place like no other with a legacy like no other. To paraphrase the words of Abraham Lincoln, it taught us that we can do better. It showed us that we can and must rise with the occasion no matter what the circumstance, complication or inconvenience.

For that humbling and lifesaving message, Kitch and I are eternally grateful.

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Medal of Honor: The Greatest Gift

Wednesday, December 18th, 2013

The Medal of Honor: The Greatest Gift
Written by Tony Mussari, Sr.
Edited by Kitch Loftus-Mussari
Photographs by Kitch Loftus-Mussari
Copyright Mussari-Loftus Associates, LTD, 2013
All Rights Reserved

The greatest gift that you can give to anybody is the gift of your honest self. It’s the only unique gift anyone can give.Fred Rogers

Gettysburg College opened its doors to students in 1832. During its long history it has been known for itsIMG_9635_sm emphasis on the liberal arts and innovative teaching. For more than180 years that tradition has been maintained.  The college is ranked nationally as a center of excellence.

It comes as no surprise that Susan Eisenhower challenged the members of the freshman class to help make our country a better place.  During the 2013 graduation exercise, the president of the senior class told everyone in attendance that Gettysburg College is a place where people matter. Graduation speaker David Gergen encouraged the graduates to answer the call to service and President Dr. Janet Morgan Riggs made it clear that the goal of the college is to prepare students for lives of impact.

The historic significance of the school, its lofty goals and the commitment to service made it an ideal place to host the 2013 Congressional Medal of Honor Town Hall Forum.

Standing with the cadets from North Plainfield in front of the College Union Building, I could feel their anticipation and excitement. People of all ages were lining up to enter the College Union Building on West IMG_Group_smLincoln Avenue. The mood was festive. We were greeted by pleasant people who acknowledged the privileges that came with the media badges we were wearing. Our group of 11 people was given easy access to the venue. When we entered, guests were helping themselves to coffee, fruit and pastries while they waited for the event to begin.

In the back of the room, videographers and photographers were setting up their cameras and tripods,IMG_9724_sm and testing their connections to the sound system to guarantee the best possible recording of the event.

Then it happened. Chris Wallace of Fox News and three recipients, Barney Barnum, Salvatore Guinta and Clinton Romesha, entered the College Union Ballroom. They were greeted with the familiar sounds of cameras clicking and reverent “oohs” and “ahs” from the audience.

The Presentation of the Colors by the Blue Mountain ROTC, an inspiring a cappella rendition of the national anthem, a warm welcome by Dr. Janet Riggs, the 14th president of Gettysburg College, and a touching tribute to Stephen Doane a Medal of Honor recipient who attended Gettysburg College before he joined the army in 1967 set the tone for the Town Hall Forum.

Polite applause filled the room, when Wallace, IMG_9706_smBarnum, Giunta and Romesha settled into the comfortable, blue easy chairs on the stage. Wallace guided the discussion which focused primarily on the heroism displayed by the Medal of Honor recipients.

Barnum has been wearing the medal for 48 years. Giunta received his medal in 2010. Romesha described himself as the new kid on the street having received the medal only seven months ago.

After they briefly described the actions they took to save their brothers, they downplayed the accolades they received, and they emphasized they did the job they were trained to do.

Two of Wallace’s questions produced a poignant moment. When he asked Sal Giunta why he did what he did and and what was going through his mind when he did it, Giunta paused for what seemed like an eternity, then hesal_smb surprised everyone in the room with these words:

I did what I did because everyone else was doing the same thing. There’s no room or time to think about you, because you don’t matter. We matter, and it has nothing to do with you as an individual. I never once led. I always stood side by side to my brothers. My first thought was to my boys…

Barnum explained it this way:

I hope that I was an example…that I led. The only thing I feared was making the wrong decision. It was all about the marine on your right and your left. That’s what drives you in battle.

In Romesha’s case it was 52 American soldiers against 300 Taliban fighters at Outpost Keating on October 3, 2009. The Americans were a team determined to do their job and unwilling to leave any of their comrades behind.

After the formal part of the forum ended, the IMG_9751_smaudience had an opportunity to ask question. About 15 people approached the microphones and waited for the opportunity of a lifetime. The questions asked were diverse and thought-provoking. They covered a range of issues including hope, fear, technology, the definition of courage, to what life lesson do you want to share with young people?

I was taken by Barney Barnum’s observations about his most inspirational moment and the change he would make in schools across the country.

We’ve got to get back to teaching history…what people who’ve gone before us…what they have done and learn from what they have done and be thankful for what they have done. It boils down to priorities…I, I, I, Me, Me, Me and maybe they ought to look at their country as a whole rather than about themselves.

What was Barnum’s most inspirational moment? Graduation day at Paris Island knowing that as a battalion commander he transformed “unorganized, fat, unmotivated, undisciplined civilians into low-crawling, hard-charging U.S. Marines…to see them on graduation day and to see the expressions on their parents’ face…absolutely phenomenal.

When a child asked Clinton Romasha how he stayed so brave. He replied: “You rely on your training…Its scary, but that’s what courage is being scared stiff.”

Sal Giunta put everything in perspective when heIMG_9770_sm responded to Cadet Kyle Pacla’s question:

What is one life lesson you would like to pass on to the younger generation? His answer”

“It’s never over until you quit trying…sometimes an opportunity is designed as hard work. Don’t be afraid of hard work…every day is a gift. It’s not a right. Take advantage of it.

On September 20, 2013, three Medal of Honor Recipients gave almost 300 people who attended the Town Hall Forum the gift of their honest selves. In doing that, they did something Carl Jung said most people refuse to do.  They made us face our own souls.

It doesn’t get any better than that.

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Gettysburg Gifts: Part 5, Robert J. Monahan, Jr.

Sunday, September 15th, 2013

Gettysburg Gifts: Part 5, Robert J. Monahan, Jr.

Written by Tony Mussari, Sr.
Edited by Kitch Loftus-Mussari
Photographs by Kitch Loftus-Mussari & Tony Mussari
Copyright 2013, Face of America, Mussari-Loftus Associates, LTD

Nothing is more important than creating an environment in which people feel they make a difference. Jack Stack

Robert J. Monahan, Jr., knows something about creating an environment in which people feel they make a difference. He was born,bobM_2sm raised and educated in Gettysburg.  It is fair to say that he loves this city and its legacy, and he has spent a good part of his life helping his hometown prosper and grow. 

Today, he is making the last minute arrangements for the 2013 Medal of Honor Convention which will be held in Gettysburg.

Last year, I had the privilege of watching Bob Monahan do what he does best, lead by making people feel they make a difference.

It was beautiful October day. The place was Lincoln Square, and the occasion was the raising of the Medal of Honor Flag. It was a bobM_Flag2smtouching symbolic event marking the beginning of a year of activities designed to commemorate the Medal of Honor and its living recipients at the annual Medal of Honor Society convention.

Little did I know then that almost a year later, Kitch and I would be preparing the production of a documentary to be shot on location at the convention. To be very honest, the person who made this possible was Bob Monahan.

He read the article we published in our blog. He took the time to make contact. He showed a genuine interest in our work. He invited us to meet with him. He encouraged us to move forward with the documentary, and he promised to do everything in his power to help us realize our dream. He delivered on his promise.

In my mind, Bob Monahan personifies all of the characteristics of the Face of America on its best day.

He is helpful, honest, and genuine. He cares about others. He is generous with his time, and he knows how to bring out the best in the members of his team.

Bob Monahan is a service-oriented person who gives to give not to get. His philosophy of leadership is deeply rooted in finding out what people can do, and helping them do it.

He is the person who initiated the idea to have Gettysburg host the Medal of Honor Convention to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the battle that changed America forever. He has worked tirelessly for three years to make this event happen.


All that being said, one of his most compelling characteristics is his welcoming and friendly way. He is the kind of person you would want to be your neighbor. His life is centered in his family. When you visit his office, the pictures occupying the most prominent spaces speak to family and friendship.  The reception you get from Bob is warm and supportive.

Bob Monahan enjoys making things happen. He does it in quietbobM_office3sm ways with determination and perseverance that is always wrapped in a package of dignity and class.

When Kitch and I think about our best moments in Gettysburg, our visits with Bob Monahan and his correspondence with us always come to mind.

When we think about America at its best, we think about his goodness, his kindness, his concern for others and his willingness to help.


For us, these words of Amelia Earhart provide a perfect description of Robert. J. Monahan, Jr., a classic Face of America on its best day:

No kind action ever stops with itself. One kind action leads to another. Good example is followed. A single act of kindness throws out roots in all directions, and the roots spring up and make new trees. The greatest work that kindness does to others is that it makes them kind themselves.  

Kitch and I would like to adapt the words of William J.H. Boetcker to express our gratitude:

Your greatness is measured by your kindness; your education and intellect by your modesty… and your real caliber is measured by the consideration and tolerance you have for others.

Thank you Bob for making our dream become a reality.

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For more information about the Congressional Medal of Honor,
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(The studio pictures of Bob Monahan were taken from his Qurvis Focus Washington interview,