Each year, the Congressional Medal of Honor Society, comprised solely of Medal of Honor recipients, gathers in a different city in the United States to celebrate its annual convention.
The Gettysburg community hosted 45 of the 79 living recipients of the nation’s highest honor for military valor last week for the 2013 convention. Four days of events were organized by Bob Monahan of Gettysburg and timed to coincide with the 150th anniversary of the battle and the Gettysburg Address. This year also marks the 55th anniversary of President Eisenhower’s chartering of the Congressional Medal of Honor Society.
Special events took place at the Eisenhower National Historic Site and at Gettysburg National Military Park through special use permits. A luncheon under a tent at the Eisenhower site featured a discussion by author and historian Evan Thomas and Susan Eisenhower, chair of the Eisenhower Institute’s Leadership and Public Policy programs and President Eisenhower’s granddaughter.
On the night of Friday, September 20th, the convention’s biggest event was a public concert at the Pennsylvania Memorial within Gettysburg NHP. The U.S. Marine Corps Band and the West Point Glee Club performed and former U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates read the Gettysburg Address. The concert concluded with fireworks set off from Emmitsburg Road.
On Saturday, September 21st, Gettysburg interpretive staff conducted special programs for the public to highlight the Medal of Honor at Gettysburg. During the battle of Gettysburg, sixty-three Union soldiers performed actions for which they would ultimately receive the medal. Some men earned their medal through battlefield heroics; others purchased it through political connections.
The programs, “Courage and Controversy: The Medal of Honor Gettysburg,” examined some of these men, their stories, and the history of the medal their nation bestowed upon them.