Posts Tagged ‘Medal of Honor’

2014 A Year of Priceless Gifts

Wednesday, December 31st, 2014

2014 A Year of Priceless Gifts

Written by Tony Mussari, Sr.
Edited by Kitch Loftus-Mussari
Photographs by Tony Mussari
Copyright Mussari-Loftus Associates, LTD 2014
All Rights Reserved

Lord we thank Thee…for the health, the work, the food and the bright skies that make our lives delightful. Robert Louis Stevenson

The words of one of the most beloved poets best explain theGroup gratitude Kitch and I have for the priceless gifts we received in 2014 from our friends and family.

The year began with a memorable event at the Gateway Theater in Gettysburg. Thanks to the the kindness of Robert Monahan, Jr., the screening of Four Days of Honor and Valor in Gettysburg was a perfect way to share the story of the Medal of Honor convention, the values associated with the Medal of Honor and the transformation of the students from North Plainfield, New Jersey who attended almost all of the convention events recorded in the documentary.

After the screening, we received this comment from a mother and grandmother who attended the screening:

IT REALLY SHOULD BE SHOWN TO THE SCHOOLS as the majority of the youth are not exposed to the humility, sincerity and dedication that you presented.


In March, we had the good fortune to participate in the Annual Ethics Conference at Marywood University. Organized by Dr. Murray Pyle and several of his colleagues at Marywood, it was a day of learning, and a priceless opportunity to make new friends and experience the beauty and the welcoming atmosphere of Kitch’s Alma Mater.

This is one of the transformational thoughts offered at the conference; There is no dichotomy between being a good person and being a success in business.

Dr. Murray Pyle “We thank you for the peace accorded us this day.”

On a beautiful march day, we traveled to Baltimore to attend the 15thIMG_5217aMJKD Annual Women in Maritime History Awards. Our friend, Mary Jane Norris was the honoree. During her acceptance speech she shared this thought: Do small things well, because they all add up.

Mary Jane we thank you for the gift of your example.

In April, Dr. Rex Dumdum, Jr. arranged a screening of Four Days of Honor and Valor in Gettysburg at Marywood University. He attended to all the details of the event including dinner, a reception an afterglow, and the technical matters that make or break an event of this IMG_5597A250nature. Rex made sure there were no anxious or stressful moments before, during and after the screening.

It was an evening of community, friendship and learning.

There were no limits placed on the Q&A session. That enabled students, teachers and visitors to provide invaluable feedback. That experience inspired one of the students in attendance, Amber E. Clifford, to write a heartfelt comment about the documentary:

“Four Days of honor and Valor in Gettysburg is truly inspiring to those who are struggling to do what they know is right.”

Thank you Rex. You give special meaning to the words of Anna Sewell: “Good People make good places.”

In April, we participated in the annual Refresh Leadership Live Simulcast at the McCann School of Business in Wilkes-Barre, PA. ELL_5857_1_250

The facility was perfect for the event.

The people from the school were very pleasant.

The room where the event was held was an excellent choice for the session.

The members of the Express Pros team were very friendly and willing to do whatever they could to make everyone feel right at home. Their kind and welcoming way reduced the normal anxiety levels that accompany a presentation of this nature.

On that day, we met three radian faces of America, Kathleen Nolan Barrett and Kathy Barrett, Jeff Doran

In May, Amy Clegg invited us to participate in an Express Business Solutions Seminar in Scranton. Jack Smalley, the Director of HR Learning Amy Jack2and Development for Express Employment Professionals, gave an informative and inspirational presentation about leadership.

These are but two of the thoughts he shared with his audience:

Leaders are responsible. They leave the excuses behind.

Effective leaders do not accommodate falling stars. They encourage and reward excellence!

Jack Smalley is a man who exemplifies professionalism with heart.

Thank you, Jack for giving us the strength to encounter that which is to come.

In May, we traveled to North Plainfield, New Jersey for two screenings of our documentary. These events were organized by Tom Mazur. The screeningScreening 1_3_IMG_8045 at the High School enabled us to experience the ways in which the documentary resonates with students.

The comments students shared with us after the screening made the long and demanding days and nights of location shooting and editing worthwhile.

The evening screening showed us that adults relate to the messages in the documentary in very positive ways.

This screening gave us an opportunity to celebrate the leadership of the MB_Gift_8179retiring superintendant of schools, Dr. Marilyn Birnbaum. Without her belief in our work, we would not have been able to do what we have done in North Plainfield since 2009. That work may be over, but the positive memories will live on forever.

Later in the year, we joined a delegation from North Plainfield in Atlantic City. There we screenedFour Days of Honor and Valor in Gettysburg for a small audience at the New Jersey School Boards Association Convention. That venue proved the accuracy of Seneca’s words: It is quality rather than quantity that matters.

Several times this year, we had an opportunity to celebrate quiet heroes who make our world a better place because of their acts of kindness andIMG_4437 consideration. Many of these people are associated with Geisinger/CMC in Scranton and Scranton Orthopaedic Specialists. Several articles in our blog record the competent and compassionate medical care Kitch received during her total knee replacement surgery.

To Dr. Harry Schmaltz and his team of caring professionals an adaptation of Stevenson’s words best records our gratitude. We thank you for the hope with which we expect tomorrow.

In 2014, both Kitch and I spent a considerable amount of time in the hospital for tests and procedures. In our blog, we expressed our thanks to the people who did their jobs without noise or notice in an excellent and humane way.

Judy Bob200_9229sm

In October, we visited with our friends at Wilkes University. This occasion gave an old teacher a new classroom, and an opportunity to work with an impressive group of students who wanted to learn something about character education.

If you are looking for excellence in education, you need look no further than the creative work of Judy and Bob Gardner and their colleagues. What they are doing to enhance learning opportunities for students in the Education Department at Wilkes University is impressive.

Thank you Judy and Bob for giving us an opportunity to help you with the important work you are doing.

A few weeks later, we traveled to Luzerne County Community toIMG_6231 participate in the Annual History Conference. This year Bill Kashatus invited us to partner with Mollie Marti to tell the story of the life and legacy of Judge Max Rosenn. To do this we produced a new version of the Windsor Park Story we broadcast about Judge Rosenn in 2004. It was a sentimental journey to one of our favorite places with one of the most impressive leaders we have ever met, Judge Max Rosenn.


In November, we drove to Binghamton, New York to celebrate the naturalization of two of our very favorite people Viola and Rex Dumdum. Sitting in the historic courtroom where the ceremony took place gave us a better understanding of what America and the blessing of American citizenship is all about.

What a gift it was to welcome two magnificent citizens to America on their big day.

Perhaps the most challenging work we did during the year took place during the early morning hours after we had attended to our other responsibilities.

In January, shortly after the screening in Gettysburg, Kitch and I began to work on a book for our grandchildren. Designed to be a legacy gift, it is a visual narrative. It combines images from our Face of America project and several documentary projects like our What IsIMG_8304 for Article America? Series and our Miracle Project with the life lessons we have learned navigating the bumps on the road of life.

During their Christmas visit we presented the book as a surprise gift to the grandchildren and their parents.

In a way, it closed the circle for us.

An adaptation of the words in Robert Louis Stevenson’s poem Morning Prayer enables us to give thanks for the blessings of 2014 and look ahead to the New Year with hope:

Lord we thank Thee for the place in which we dwell… the peace accorded us this day…for our friends…give us the strength to encounter that which will come in 2015…that we may be brave in peril, constant in tribulation, temperate in wrath and in all changes of fortune, and down to the gates of death, loyal and loving to one another.

Happy New Year!

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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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America at Its Best: The Medal of Honor

Wednesday, December 11th, 2013

America at Its Best: The Medal of Honor

Written by Tony Mussari, Sr.
Edited by Kitch Loftus-Mussari
Copyright 2013
All rights reserved
Mussari-Loftus Associates
The Face of America Project

The destiny of our great country lies in the hands of our youth, the future leaders of America.  Barney Barnum, Medal of Honor recipient.

This week, our Face of America journey took me to the North Plainfield Senior High School in New Jersey on a beautiful September afternoon.
Collagestusm My destination was the Junior ROTC classroom.  I was invited to do an in-service with six students who had been chosen to participate in an extraordinary experiential learning opportunity about the Medal of Honor.

Unlike most classrooms at the end of the day on Friday, this one was a center of anticipation and carefully controlled excitement about the what, the why and the how of the project. Some of the students were dressed in their uniforms, others were wearing casual clothing.  No matter what the attire, everyone was interested and engaged in the work at hand.

Navy Medal 1862

For almost two hours, we talked about the Medal of Honor, its origins, its design, its meaning, its recipients, the Congressional Medal of Honor Society, and the significance of the convention that will celebrate this symbol of excellence.

The students were surprised to learn that only 3,462 medals have been awarded in 150 years. When I told them there were 1,522 recipients in the Civil War including 20 boys under 18, one student began to calculate the exclusiveness of the award.

They were amazed that 63 of these medals were earned during the battle of Gettysburg.

The diverse nature of the recipients produced smiles of approval when they heard these statistics:

87 African-American recipients;
41 Hispanic-American recipients;
33 Asian-American recipients;
32 Native-American recipients.

Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain’s Gettysburg story resonated withJc Qupte the students, and so did the stories of Barney Barnum and Jay Vargus, two Vietnam veterans who gave truth to the words used to describe the Medal of Honor:

The Medal of Honor is the highest award for valor in action against an enemy force which can be bestowed upon an individual serving in the Armed Services of the United States. It is presented to its recipient by the President of the United States of America in the name of Congress.

MoH Graphic

They liked the goals of the Medal of Honor Society:

1. Brotherhood & Comradeship for recipients;
2. Memory and Respect for the deeds and the medal;
3. Protect the dignity and honor of the Medal;
4. Provide assistance to recipients;
5. Promote Patriotism;
6. Promote service to US in peace and war;
7. Character education for young people.

The most memorable moment happened when I told the studentsJames_Anderson,_Jr the story of Medal of Honor recipient James Anderson, Jr. This excerpt from his Medal of Honor citation got the attention of everyone in the room:

Unhesitatingly and with complete disregard for his own personal safety, he reached out, grasped the grenade, pulled it to his chest and curled around it as it went off.

James Anderson, Jr., was 20-years-young when he died. His story helped the students better understand the meaning of the words frequently used to describe Medal of Honor recipients: Courage, Duty, Excellence, Honor, Integrity, Leadership, Loyalty, Responsibility, Respect, Resilience, Selfless Service and Valor.

The most poignant moment happened when I introduced the Emily-Perezstudents to 2d Lt Emily Perez and her story of courage, heroism and service. Emily was the highest ranking female Black/Hispanic honors graduate from West Point. She volunteered to go to Iraq. On the day she lost her life in a roadside bomb attack, her replacement arrived. She did not think the replacement was ready to lead the convoy so she volunteered do it one more time.

Emily Perez did not receive a Medal of Honor, but she is a shining example of everything America is on its best day. Her story had great meaning for everyone in the room.

To help the students better understand another dimension ofDavis Book values, I shared an overview of Not Your Average Joe, Profiles of Militay Core Values and Why They Matter in The Private Sector. This book was written by Dennis T. Davis in an attempt to document the many values veterans bring to the workplace.

Davis is a military man himself, and he is on a mission to convince employers to adopt a program of values-based employment in addition to skills-based employment criteria for hiring new employees.
Not Your Average Joe helps young people to understand the practical consequences of living a life rooted in loyalty, duty, respect, selfless service, honor, integrity and personal courage.

On September 18, six students from North Plainfield, New Jersey, will arrive in Gettysburg for what will be one of the JV Quptemost memorable experiences of their lifetime. By their own admission, they are excited about this opportunity. They want to make the most of their journey.  They hope to learn things that will empower them to honor the legacy of the heroes they meet with deeds not words.

Three recipients set the tone for this adventure when they wrote these words:

Believe in yourself, set reasonable goals, and love God and your parents. If you fail, get up and never give up. JayBB Qupte Vargas

The power of noble deeds is to be preserved and passed on to the future.
Joshua Chamberlain

I believe in public service…so I recommend it to youngsters…It’s not about you… it’s about us. There’s no I in the word team. Barney Barnum

FoA Sept 13 _4

One of the students, Kyle Pacla used these words to explain the goal he set for himself and everyone on our team:

What I hope to learn from this experience is how to become a better person…how to figure out what it is in my character that
I need to change in order to help not only myself but also others for the betterment of them and myself.

For an old teacher in a new classroom, it doesn’t get any better than that.

Kitch and I are grateful to the members of the North Plainfield Board of Education, Superintendent of Schools Dr. Marilyn Birnbaum, LtCol Eric Hansen, Senior Naval Science Instructor for the North Plainfield High School Navy Junior ROTC program and Director of Arts, Tom Mazur for their belief in our work and their support of this project. We will do everything we can to make this a memorable and productive experience for the students.

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Heroes without Headlines, Gettysburg, 2012

Sunday, October 21st, 2012

Heroes without Headlines, Gettysburg, 2012

Written by Tony Mussari
Edited by Kitch Loftus-Mussari
Copyright 2012
Mussari-Loftus Associates
All Rights Reserved
The Face of America Project

"Any nation that does not honor its heroes will not long endure" Abraham Lincoln

Flag of Honor

The headline in the Gettysburg Times read, “Flies with honor.”

The accompanying picture recorded the moment, shortly before noon, when Barney Barnum and Brian Thacker raised the light blue flag with the impressive emblem under the Stars and Stripes in Lincoln Square on October 17, 2012.

For the people who came to witness this event, it was a very significant moment.

Barnum and Thacker are Medal of Honor recipients. The flag is the simple, but elegant, Medal of Honor flag.

The occasion was a celebration. The Medal of Honor Convention will be held in Gettysburg next September, the place where 63 Medals of Honor were earned in the battle that changed the course of the Civil War.

The flag will fly high above Lincoln Square for one year as a symbol of courage, honor, hope, respect and service.

The flag raising was the highlight of an inspiring ceremony that helped people better understand the Medal of Honor, the veterans who earned it and everything it symbolizes.

For me, it was the beginning of a day, I will never forget.


I did not know about the event when I arrived in Gettysburg on Tuesday, October 16.  My mind was focused on the seven meetings, I had arranged to finalize plans for the premiere of our documentary, Walking Into the Light at Gettysburg.  I was on my way to a meeting at the Convention and Visitors Bureau when I literally bumped it to a very pleasant man on Steinwehr Ave.

I was lost. When I asked him for directions to Middle Street, he took the time to respond in detail. Before we knew it, we were engaged in a wonderful conversation about his work as a photographer and my mission to get the word out about our project.

Del Hilbert is a welcoming person, a kind person, a thoughtful person and a person of faith. He invited me to visit his studio. I accepted, and he put a coin in the parking meter.  That unexpected act of kindness established the foundation and tone of our emerging friendship. We talked about our interests and one of our mutual friends, Frank Orlando, aka General Robert E. Lee. Del gave me one of the pictures he took of Frank, and he invited me to join him on Wednesday morning at the circle by the David Wills House, the home where President Lincoln was a guest during his visit to Gettysburg in November 1863.

A Unique Face of America Moment

Wednesday, October 17, was a magnificent autumn day. When I arrived at the circle, I did not know what to expect.

A crowd was building. The mood was festive, but reserved.  People were talking in hushed tones.  Wherever one looked something was happening.

Two bright yellow school vans transporting 14 members of the Gettysburg High School Band were being parked adjacent to the Gettysburg Hotel.

Junior ROTC students,Emma Bahm, Gabrielle Minor, John Tully and Aaron Scruggs were taking their places under the watchful eye of Thomas A Bores, SFC, U.S. Army retired. 

An Honor Guard was forming, Gettysburg’s Mayor, William Troxell, was greeting people with a smile and a firm handshake.

A pleasant young woman named Ashley greeted everyone with her radiant smile as she distributed folders containing information about the event and the Medal of Honor Society.

An incredibly talented senior executive from the Webster Group, AJ Bowanas, helped people make connections. Kristen Holland, Project Manager for the Congressional Medal of Honor Convention in Gettysburg, attended to last minute details with great dignity.

Carl Whitehall, Media Relations Manager, for the Gettysburg Convention and Visitors Bureau, greeted old friends like Frank and Bonnie Orlando and Pastor Steve Herr.

Then it happened, two men appeared to my left. They were quietly and politely shaking hands with people as they made their way toward the platform where the program would take place. I watched them with great interest. It was the first time I had ever seen a Medal of Honor recipient. In fact, it was the first time I had seen a person wearing a Medal of Honor.

Suddenly I was face to face with Brian Thacker. He was dressed in a blue sport coat and grey dress pants. He was not as tall as I had imagined he would be. Without the medal he was wearing, one could easily misidentify him as a business executive.  He was more reserved than I expected, and he was more generous with his time than I expected.

On March 31, 1971, he earned the Medal of Honor because he was a leader who displayed no thought for himself as he worked courageously and effectively in the face of unimaginable danger to guarantee the safety of others. He was the person who survived eight days in the jungle of Vietnam without food or water. He was the junior officer who years later told a reporter, “I was afraid. Yet fear is a wonderful motivator. It sharpens your brain and then your only objective is to survive.”

When my moment came, all I could do was look him in the eye and say these words, “Thank you for your service to America.”

His response was polite and grateful.

A few minutes later, I found myself in a similar situation with Barney Barnum. He is smaller than I thought he would be. In my mind, he is a giant for what he did and the way he did it.

Barnum is a man with a perpetual smile on his face. Without the gold medal with the blue ribbon hanging from his neck, you would think he is everyone’s favorite grandfather. When you are in his presence the feeling of awe is palpable, but his smile puts you at ease. 

His moment came on December 18, 1965. Like all Medal of Honor recipients in the face of danger, he acted with complete disregard for his own safety. He took the initiative. He gave encouragement. He assumed a leadership position. What he did is best described in his citation:

“His sound and swift decisions and his obvious calm served to stabilize the badly decimated units and his gallant example as he stood exposed repeatedly to point out targets served as an inspiration to all. Provided with two armed helicopters, he moved fearlessly through enemy fire to control the air attack against the firmly entrenched enemy while skillfully directing one platoon in a successful counterattack in the key enemy positions. Having thus cleared a small area, he requested and directed the landing of two transport helicopters for the evacuation of the dead and wounded. He then assisted in the mopping up and final seizure of the battalion’s objective.”

When I met Barney Barnum, I offered my expression of gratitude. He responded with a smile, a warm handshake and the words, “Thank you so much.”

After that moment, time passed quickly.

Dressed in their Army of the Potomac uniforms and directed by David Conklin, the high school musicians played popular selections from the Civil War.

Robert J. Monahan, Jr., President and CEO of the Congressional Medal of Honor Convention in Gettysburg, began the program with a well-crafted welcome.

The Gettysburg Area High School Army JROTC Cadets recited the Pledge of Allegiance with conviction and passion.

Pastor Steve Herr delivered his invocation with feeling and grace. The concluding three sentences of his prayer touched the hearts of everyone in the crowd:

“Finally, Lord we also pray for peace among all peoples. For peace in our hearts and minds, among our citizens, and among nations. We pray that you would inspire us with the courage to devote our lives to serving our fellow citizens and caring for your people.”

Without warning, the most instructive moment of the ceremony happened. Mayor Troxell came to the podium to offer remarks. For some reason, the microphone moved and he could not be heard.

Without hesitation, Barney Barnum stealthfully made his way to the mike stand. He dislodged the mike from its holder, and he stood next to the mayor holding the microphone in just the right place so that everyone in the audience could hear what he was saying.

That act, that moment, that rescue spoke volumes about Barnum, his values and his medal. Just as he had done in a much more dangerous circumstance in Vietnam all those years ago, his instinctive sense of service to others took over.  He forgot about his role as a distinguished guest. He dismissed his personal comfort. He rushed in to help the mayor and everyone else.

In that moment, with that act, he exemplified why he is the personification of America at its best. His action sent a powerful message to everyone assembled in Lincoln Square. Service to others, kindness to others, helping others and caring about the success of others is central to America at its best.

Shortly before I left Lincoln Square, I noticed a TV cameraman setting up a shot for an interview with Barney Barnum. When I reached the location, I took a picture of the man who saved the moment for the mayor. Then I positioned myself in a place where we could make eye contact. The words I spoke to this unassuming hero came straight from my heart, “You are an American treasure.”

He blushed. Then he smiled with an expression of gratitude unlike anything I have ever experienced, and one which I will never forget.

That’s what heroes without headlines do. They make indelible impressions on our heart, and they make us want to reach up for our higher angels.

There are 81 living Medal of Honor recipients. Would that every American would have the opportunity to meet at least one of them and experience, in real time, the goodness, kindness, courage, patriotism and service that makes each of them a model to be imitated, respected and honored.

In my opinion, what makes them so special is not power, wealth, status or notoriety.  On the contrary, they are special because they are just like us. They are human, they have fears, they wonder about their future, they love their children and yearn for their safety, happiness and success. They bear the aches and pains of life, yet they never complain. Their actions are motivated by service not selfishness, grace not greed, humility not pride.

The two men I met in Gettysburg see themselves as a soldier and a marine who did nothing more than serve their country.

The Medal of Honor does not signify perfection. In my mind, it is a statement about excellence. The 3,458 men and one woman who have earned it acted in the best interest of their neighbors, their friends and their country. They thought about others before themselves. In so doing, they established a model of behavior that encourages the weak to be strong, the timid to be courageous, and the powerful to be generous. Their behavior on the battlefield and in the public square gives truth to the words of Abraham Lincoln, “We must rise with the occasion…Leave nothing for tomorrow which can be done today.”

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