Recently, the Congressional Medal of Honor Society held its annual convention in Gettysburg, Pa. For four marvelous days, this small historic town put on quite a show for the 44 living Medal of Honor recipients who were in attendance, for their family members, for members of the Congressional Medal of Honor Foundation and for thousands of others who came from all over America and from overseas.
IN ANTICIPATION of the 150th anniversary of both the Battle of Gettysburg and the Gettysburg Address, this small town constructed an impressive $80 million museum and visitor center. Cemetery Ridge, Seminary Ridge, Little Round Top, the “High Water Mark” of Pickett’s Charge and many other sites are now well-preserved and easy to find and explore.
To show you the impact that this convention had on visitors, here is an email I received this past week from Wales in the United Kingdom. Jon Williams, a retired policeman from Cardiff, the largest city in Wales, sat at our table at the final event. We told him about Jimmie Dyess (the Dyess family came to America from Wales in the 17th century). In this email, he highlights the grand concert that was held on Cemetery Ridge, and the Patriots Dinner that was held on the last evening of the convention:
I just wanted to drop you a line to express my sincerest thanks to you and your wife for the kindness that you showed me at the Patriot Award Dinner last week. I must confess that as a lone Welshman in such distinguished company I felt a little out of my depth, but you and all of those that I met that evening put me at my ease and made me feel so welcome. I did not think that my experiences at the convention could be bettered after having met the recipients and then experiencing the battlefield concert, but the dinner was truly the icing on the cake, and much of that was
as a result of my meeting you, your wife and all of those other special people.
My attendance at the whole event was a once-in-a-lifetime experience. I feel so privileged to have been allowed to participate in the events and meet real heroes. We use that term so flippantly these days but the recipients of the Medal of Honor are true heroes, and each and every one of them the most humble and self-effacing men I have ever met. I feel truly honored to have had an opportunity to spend a little time with them.
I cannot help but feel that the patriotism and love of country – coupled with the support and love that the American people openly display toward the men and women who serve them in their armed forces – is something that we here in the U.K. should seek to emulate. I was truly moved by the whole thing and, even as a proud Welshman, felt envious of you all as you saluted your flag and the brave men and women who fight under it.
Thank you for sharing your time with me and recalling your father-in-law’s exploits in being awarded the Medal of Honor and Carnegie Medal. I came away with a new resolve to attempt my own work on the Medal of Honor, and have already commenced research for an idea I have for a book.
Once again, you have my heartfelt thanks for your friendship that night. It may be that we will meet again in Knoxville – who knows, but if you ever find yourself in
Wales again, please let me know in advance and allow me to return the kindness.
Best regards and diolch yn fawr (thank you very much)
The 2014 Congressional Medal of Honor Convention will be in Knoxville, Tenn., Sept. 10-13. Most of the events are open to the public. If you would like more information, please feel free to visit the website at www.mohknoxville.com.
THE 2015 CONVENTION will be hosted by the city of Boston. You might want to put this annual event on your “bucket list.” The warmth, hospitality and fundamental patriotism that each host community displays is something to behold and to enjoy. To be in the presence of dozens of Medal of Honor recipients is very special.
(The writer – a retired U.S. Air Force major general – is secretary of the Congressional Medal of Honor Foundation. He is the co-author, with retired Brig. Gen. Jeff Foley, of Rules and Tools for Leaders. The fourth edition was published in August. Mr. Smith’s email address is email@example.com.)