"Old Ironsides" Hosts Medal of Honor Recipients
Story Number: NNS060930-01
Release Date: 9/30/2006 7:01:00 PM
From USS Constitution Public Affairs
BOSTON (NNS) -- More than 60 Medal of Honor recipients took part in a special Medal of Honor flag presentation in a ceremony aboard USS Constitution, "Old Ironsides," here Sept. 30.
The flag was created by an Act of Congress and signed into law by President George W. Bush Oct. 23, 2002. Each service was charged with presenting the flag to its recipients in an appropriate ceremonial manner.
The flag can only be presented to a Medal of Honor recipient or a recipient’s primary next of kin by a top-ranking member of the armed forces.
Presenting the flags to each service's recipients were Army Gen. Richard A. Cody, vice chief of staff; Lt. Marine Gen. James F. Amos, commanding general, Marine Corps Combat Development Command; Adm. Robert F. Willard, vice chief of naval operations; and Air Force Gen. John D.W. Corley, vice chief of staff, Headquarters U.S. Air Force.
"It is an honor to recognize the recipients aboard Constitution today," said Cmdr. Thomas C. Graves, Constitution's commanding officer. "The inspiration and the lessons we have drawn from them is immeasurable. It's fitting that Constitution, with its long association with the Medal of Honor, be able to recognize these recipients on her decks."
The underway culminated a week of activities for the Congressional Medal of Honor Society. The society holds annual conventions in different cities throughout the country.
During the two-hour underway, the recipients and their guests were treated to a rendition of the National Anthem by Matthew DiBattista of Opera Boston, a 21-gun salute from Old Ironsides' ship's guns at Castle Island, and a flyover by two F-15 "Eagles" from Otis Air National Guard Base's 102nd Fighter Wing.
Despite the fanfare and the honor of their status, many of the recipients remained humble.
"There's a lot of talk about [the Medal of Honor recipients] having 'abnormal' or 'superior' bravery," said Joe Jackson, a U.S. Air Force recipient who received his medal for his service in Vietnam. "That's not true. Everyone has courage in their heart. And the more you use it, the more it's there."
"I would encourage everyone to use it," he said, referring specifically to the service members from all branches that were aboard.
The flag consists of a field of blue with 13 stars signifying the original 13 States arranged in the same formation that appears on the Medal of Honor ribbon. The flag is gold fringed.
Since the creation of the Medal of Honor in 1861, 3,442 people have been the recipient of the country's highest military honor. Of those, 111 are still living.
This event marks the largest group of Medal of Honor recipients ever to step aboard a naval vessel.
At 208 years old, Constitution is the world's oldest commissioned warship afloat. It is still owned and operated by the U.S. Navy.