BOSTON – Forty of this country’s greatest living heroes, including two from Massachusetts, are being celebrated in Boston this week at a conference exclusively for those who received the nation’s highest honor.
The Congressional Medal of Honor Society is holding their annual convention and Patriot Award Gala this week in Boston for an unprecedented third time. More than 40 of the 78 living recipients are taking part in this year’s convention. Seven recipients arrived by Blackhawk helicopter which touched down on the Boston Common.
“It is an honor to host the Congressional Medal of Honor Society and I thank the recipients and their families for your service and sacrifice,” said Governor Charlie Baker. “Welcoming great American heroes to the State House is a privilege as we recognize your courage and bravery while serving in the line of duty.”
Massachusetts currently has three living recipients of the Medal of Honor: Thomas J. Hudner, Thomas G. Kelley, and Ryan Pitts. Both Thomas Hudner and Thomas Kelley served the Department of Veterans’ Services as Commissioner and Secretary, respectively.
“I am humbled to be in the presence of our heroes who have given so much to defend our nation,” said Lieutenant Governor Karyn Polito. “I thank you for gathering in Boston for the third time and salute your service.”
Hudner received the Medal of Honor in 1951 for his selfless actions during the Korean War to save his fellow pilot, Jesse Brown. He then served as the Department of Veterans’ Services Commissioner between 1991 and 1999, until fellow Medal of Honor recipient, Kelley, took over as Secretary for the Department and served until 2010. Kelley was awarded his Medal in 1970 for his initiative and determination in leading his troops to safety despite severe injuries, during the Vietnam War. Hudner lives in Concord, Mass. and Kelley lives in Somerville, Mass.
Pitts, a native of Lowell, Mass., was awarded his Medal in 2014 for his valiant actions while deployed in Afghanistan. He now lives in New Hampshire.
“The convention committee has worked very hard for the last two years to make this week possible,” said Secretary of the Department of Veterans’ Services, Francisco Urena. “As a veteran and member of the committee, I am humbled to have played a small role and I am excited that the Commonwealth has an opportunity to learn about these American heroes.”
About the Medal of Honor:
Created in 1861 by President Abraham Lincoln, the Medal of Honor is our nation’s highest and rarest military decoration. It is bestowed by the President of the United States, in the name of Congress, upon a member of the United States Armed Forces who distinguishes himself or herself through “conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his or her life above and beyond the call of duty while engaged in an action against the enemy of the United States. Fewer than 3,500 individuals have received the Medal, half of which have been posthumously. There are currently only 78 living recipients.
About the Congressional Medal of Honor Society:
In 1958, the United States Congress chartered the Congressional Medal of Honor Society. The purpose of the Society, among other things, is to perpetuate the legacy of the Medal of Honor. The living recipients of the Medal of Honor constitute the members of the Society. These recipients congregate annually for their national Medal of Honor Convention. Previous conventions in Boston were held in 2001 and 2006.