On behalf of the Congressional Medal of Honor Society (CMOHS), thank you Tampa Bay area! Your warm hospitality and patriotism were front and center during the numerous engagements and outreach events we participated in during our annual convention from 22-26 October, 2019. Whatever your politics, there is a lot to be thankful for in America and the Tampa Bay communities represents all that is good about our nation.
We met many wonderful people during the course of the convention and quickly learned the Tampa Bay community is dedicated to ensuring our veterans receive the recognition, gratitude, care, and benefits they deserve. We’d especially like to thank Paula Meckley, who devoted countless hours connecting Recipients with students throughout Pasco, Pinellas, and Hillsborough counties, as part of our Character Development Program (CDP) in the months preceding and during the convention. The tremendous support of the Vinik family, Tampa Bay Lighting, the James A. Haley VA Hospital, and Tampa Bay’s great police force and first responders. Such a successful convention would not have been possible without you!
What did 47 Medal of Honor Recipients do in Tampa for a week? We met community leaders and citizens that are providing unwavering support to veterans. We met teachers committed to teaching the values embodied in the Medal of Honor to the youth of Pasco, Pinellas, and Hillsborough counties. We were able to engage with more than 2,500 students that are intellectually curious and dedicated to being good American citizens. And we discussed shared experiences and how to overcome challenges with our fellow veterans.
Tight-knit Tampa Bay area was the perfect community to engage with students and veterans, discuss the importance of living a values-based life, and highlight the resources we connect veterans with to address the many challenges they face every day. We honored several local and nationally recognized individuals during the Patriot Gala with nearly 1,000 patriots that exemplify why Tampa Bay is renowned for recognizing veterans, creating opportunities for veteran-owned businesses, and supporting active duty service members and their families. It was an uplifting and unforgettable event.
Since being awarded the Medal of Honor in 1969, I have had the privilege to engage with people, businesses, and cities all over America about the mission of the Congressional Medal of Honor Society. I always stress that we live in a complicated society that can only progress with a solid foundation that centers on the six values embodied in the Medal of Honor – courage, sacrifice, commitment, citizenship, integrity, and patriotism.
We embrace our role as “ambassadors” of the Medal of Honor and are committed to maintaining the public’s trust through viable programs and initiatives that make a difference in the lives of our youth and veterans. Specifically, our Character Development Program (CDP) incorporates the ideas of courage and selfless service into K-12 curriculums.
Through the Veterans Outreach Program (VOP), Recipients connect with fellow veterans throughout the nation. We are thankful for the meaningful dialogue we had in Tampa Bay with many veterans about Post Traumatic Stress, suicide, resiliency, transitioning to civilian life, and mental wellness challenges. To all veterans reading this, please know that our commitment to you will never waiver.
Again, thank you Tampa. The hardships that many veterans experience are substantial, but no community recognizes the sacrifices of America’s military more than your community. You are America’s model for the tremendous difference a strong community can make in the lives of veterans and their families. We look forward to continuing our efforts with you in the future. We salute you!