For those who may not know, the Medal of Honor is the United States of America’s highest and most prestigious personal military decoration that may be awarded to recognize U.S. military service members who distinguished themselves by acts of valor.
Last week I traveled out of town in order to serve as a volunteer at a meeting of about 40 of our Medal of Honor recipients. I found out about a year ago that they were planning a get together in Colorado. As luck would have it, I have relatives there that live close enough to the meeting place to allow me to stay and work there for a few days.
As an aside, I want to know why airplane seats are so tiny. I’m a small person, thank goodness, and even I’m squished trying to sit comfortably. Oh well, that’s a rant for another day.
During the week, security was very tight. I saw law enforcement professionals of all types…city police, bomb squad guys, men from the sheriffs office, private security companies and I even had a long chat at one of the events with a Department of Wildlife officer. Once we were officially checked in each morning, however, we could socialize freely with the Medal of Honor recipients and their families as long we were taking care of our duties. Since I originally started off on the Reservation Committee and that job was done when the meeting began, I didn’t have hard assignments but served as a floater helping out whenever I was needed. Typically, I walked around making sure the recipients, their wives, children and guests were having a good time. It was an easy job because they were all very pleasant and easy to please.
I can say, without reservation, that I had a fantastic time. It was a wonderful thing to be part of. The recipients had many events that were planned strictly for their entertainment but they also had quite a few community outreach opportunities that they took full advantage of. They made visits to local schools and made sure that members of the public who wanted to meet them (and who planned ahead) would have a chance to do so. As a group, they were gracious, energetic, kind, funny…and a we bit ornery. As one would expect, they had minds of their own and trying to get them from one place to another, even if it was just from a reception tent into the main building was like herding cats but that’s where my years of teaching came in handy. I’m pretty good at moving groups of people around.
I was so happy to see the outpouring of love from everyone for our Medal of Honor recipients. Everywhere they went last week, they were showered with appreciation, gifts, kind words and gratitude…exactly as they should be. I was delighted for them and their families but it also hardened my resolve. It made me even more committed to seeing that our veterans who don’t enjoy the same level of public acknowledgment, know they are appreciated too. I want every last one of them to have the spotlight of recognition shined upon them by the American public. I’m only one person but I’ve taken that as my mission. Every veteran in my sphere will hear at least one sincere, personal “thank you” from me and I’ll keep volunteering my services in the community for veteran’s causes.
I don’t have a lot of photos to share since I was supposed to be working and contributing, not standing around taking photos but I do have a few from one of the events where it was appropriate to have your picture taken with the recipients. Over the next little while, I’ll post some of those and relay how the recipient in the photo earned their Medal of Honor.
Brian Miles Thacker
Rank and organization: First Lieutenant, U.S. Army, Battery A, 1st Battalion, 92d Artillery. Place and date: Kontum Province, Republic of Vietnam, 31 March 1971. Entered service at: Salt Lake City, Utah. Born: 25 April 1945, Columbus, Ohio.
For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty. 1st Lt. Thacker, Field Artillery, Battery A, distinguished himself while serving as the team leader of an Integrated Observation System collocated with elements of two Army of the Republic of Vietnam units at Fire Base 6. A numerically superior North Vietnamese Army force launched a well-planned, dawn attack on the small, isolated, hilltop fire base. Employing rockets, grenades, flame-throwers, and automatic weapons, the enemy forces penetrated the perimeter defenses and engaged the defenders in hand-to-hand combat. Throughout the morning and early afternoon, 1st Lt. Thacker rallied and encouraged the U.S. and Republic of Vietnam soldiers in heroic efforts to repulse the enemy. He occupied a dangerously exposed observation position for a period of 4 hours while directing friendly air strikes and artillery fire against the assaulting enemy forces. His personal bravery and inspired leadership enabled the outnumbered friendly forces to inflict a maximum of casualties on the attacking enemy forces and prevented the base from being overrun. By late afternoon, the situation had become untenable. 1st Lt. Thacker organized and directed the withdrawal of the remaining friendly forces. With complete disregard for his personal safety, he remained inside the perimeter alone to provide covering fire with his M-16 rifle until all other friendly forces had escaped from the besieged fire base. Then, in an act of supreme courage, he called for friendly artillery fire on his own position to allow his comrades more time to withdraw safely from the area and, at the same time, inflict even greater casualties on the enemy forces. Although wounded and unable to escape from the area himself, he successfully eluded the enemy forces for 8 days until friendly forces regained control of the fire base. The extraordinary courage and selflessness displayed by 1st Lt. Thacker were an inspiration to his comrades and are in the highest traditions of the military service.