March 25th was National Medal of Honor Day and 35 of the 98 living Medal of Honor recipients attended a wreath-laying ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. “The Unknown Soldiers and Medal of Honor recipients represent the values of courage, sacrifice, selfless service and patriotism,” said David J. McIntyre, Jr., Congressional Medal of Honor Foundation board member.
After the wreath laying ceremony three civilians were awarded the Above & Beyond Citizen Honors. This award is picked and presented by The National Medal of Honor Society. Lt. Gen. James B. Peake (Ret.) spoke at the ceremony saying that the award is a way to remind us of “the nobility of man.”
The first person presented with the award was David Bryan of Kansas City, Missouri. He rescued a motorist from a burning vehicle on I-70 in Missouri. Paul Bucha, President of the Congressional Medal of Honor Society, said of Bryan that he is “an inspiration to the state of Missouri and his fellow Americans.”
Jeremy Hernandez also received a Citizen Honors award for saving the lives of 50 children during the I-35W Bridge collapse of 2007 in Mississippi. Jeremy was a youth worker returning from a field trip on a school bus when the bridge collapsed. He kicked out the rear emergency exit door and carried or helped the children on board to safety.
The third recipient of the award was Rick Rescorla, and it was accepted on his behalf by his son and daughter. After the 1993 attacks on the World Trade Center, Rescorla, who worked at the World Trade Center for Morgan Stanley, implemented an evacuation plan that was practiced every three months. When Tower One was struck on 9/11 Rescorla ignored officials’ advice to stay put and immediately implemented his evacuation plan helping the 2,700 employees of Morgan Stanley evacuate 20 floors of the World Trade Center’s Tower Two.
Because of his quick action most of the employees were out by the time the second plane hit. Rescorla, despite pleas to stay out, returned into the building to help evacuate more people. He perished in the collapse, after helping save almost as many lives as were otherwise lost that terrible day. Largely as a result of Rescorla’s foresight and heroism, only six of the 2,700 Morgan Stanley employees lost their lives that day.
The Congressional Medal of Honor Society is comprised solely of those that have received a Medal of Honor. The Society was founded in order to educate people about the actions of Medal of Honor recipients. To receive the Above & Beyond Citizen Honors those that have performed heroic deeds are nominated and then a panel of Medal of Honor judges selects a finalist from every state, plus the District of Columbia. From these 51 finalists the panel then picks three people.
Bruce Whitman, co-chairman of the board of the Congressional Medal of Honor Foundation, said that the recipients have “incredible and compelling stories” and that they “reflect the true spirit of Americans going above and beyond to help each other.”