GETTYSBURG, PA.The autograph hounds waiting expectantly in a hotel lobby weren’t drawn by actors, musicians or politicians, but by a few dozen men whose rare and distinguished achievements have earned them the nation’s highest military honor.
Nearly half of the 79 living recipients of Medal of Honor are attending the gathering in Gettysburg, where some of its first recipients fought 150 years ago.
The Medal of Honor Society annual convention gives the public an opportunity to collect the signatures of the men who have been honored by Congress for risking their lives beyond the call of duty in combat, and dozens of people waited Thursday for them to return from a luncheon at a nearby farm once owned by President Dwight Eisenhower.
Dave Loether, 62, a computer analyst from Pittsburgh, was hoping to add to the 55 signatures of Medal of Honor recipients he has collected on a U.S. Army flag. Loether knows many of their faces by sight — and their stories by heart.
”It’s a piece of cloth with some ink on it — it’s worthless,” Loether said. “On the other hand, it’s priceless.”
The men who hold the highest honor of valor in the land – the recipients of the Medal of Honor – are not known for easily capitulating, but on Thursday they gave in to the demands of their stature to grant admirers a piece of themselves for posterity – their autographs.
Mary Edwards Walker, a Union Army surgeon in the Civil War, the only woman to receive the medal, died in 1919.
Approximately 48 recipients of the Medal of Honor made themselves available to appease the yearning of fans for autographs, handshakes and photos at the second day of the weeklong Congressional Medal of Honor Society’s convention in Gettysburg.
Brad Mackinnon and his son, Robert, drove in for the day from their home in Michigan, this being the fourth convention the elder Mackinnon has attended.
In his backpack, Mackinnon carried a copy of “Medal of Honor: Portraits of Valor Beyond the Call of Duty,” which to date contains the signatures of 64 of the recipients featured in the book. On Thursday, Mackinnon hoped to collect eight more.
“You grow up thinking that the actors and actresses and sports guys are the heroes. And then you say, oh astronauts, they are pretty cool guys,” he said. “But then you come to realize that military veterans are the true heroes, and these guys the ultimate heroes. They won’t agree but they are doing their job.”
An autograph signing took place during the Congressional Medal of Honor Society Convention at Wyndham Gettysburg Hotel on Thursday September 19, 2013. Pittsburgh Battalion US Navel Sea Cadet Ian Sleigh holds onto a shell that he had signed by recipients of the Medal of Honor.
Quick facts: The Medal of Honor has been granted to 3,462 people.
Today there are 80 living recipients of the Medal of HonorThe medal was awarded to just one woman, Mary Walker, at Bull Run on July 21,1861.
Open to all members of the armed services, only one has been awarded to a member of the Coast Guard. Douglas Munro was awarded the medal for his actions at Point Cruz, Guadalcanal, on Sept. 27, 1942.
William Carney was the first African-American recipient. He was awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions on July 18,1863 at on July 18,1863 at Fort Wagner, S.C.
Extraordinary combat video shows soldier’s act of humanity
Army Capt. Will Swenson will receive the Medal of Honor at the White House next month for his bravery in Afghanistan. Some of Swenson’s heroism was captured on video that shows soldiers fight not only for their country, but for each other, too.
Captain Swenson, is one of three soldiers, for actions during the Battle of Ganjgal on September 8, 2009, in Kunar Province, Afghanistan: submitted to the DOD for this extraordinary honor. In 2011, Corporal Dakota Meyer was honored at the White House
The Civil War was the first conflict to be documented on film and early photographers captured thousands of images of the tragedies of war. On the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg, here is a look back at the photographs that first exposed the greater public to the grim realities of the battlefield.
This image by Timothy H. O’Sullivan, titled “A Harvest of Death,” is one of the most iconic photographs from the Civil War.
A portrait of General George Gordon Meade, who famously led Union troops into victory at the battle of Gettysburg.
A portrait of General Robert E. Lee who led the Confederate troops at Gettysburg.
A scene from Gettysburg, Pa. on Nov. 19, 1863, the day that President Abraham Lincoln delivered his famous address during the dedication ceremony for the Gettysburg National Cemetery.
Men gather at Gettysburg, Pa. for the laying of the cornerstone of the Soldier’s National Monument on the anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg, July 1865.
— U.S. Dept of Defense (@DeptofDefense) September 20, 2013
National POW/MIA Recognition Day: We Will Never Forget http://t.co/qryethlaQ1
— The White House Blog (@blog44) September 21, 2013