KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — The Congressional Medal of Honor Celebration is coming to Knoxville with many events scheduled for the recipients and the community.
Medal of Honor recipients were thanked at a concert during their first gathering in Knoxville eight years ago. This year will mark the second time this extraordinary group of men will walk the streets of East Tennessee.
Once a year Medal of Honor recipients come together to perpetuate the legacy of the nation’s highest military honor for conspicuous gallantry.
Joe Thompson chairs the Knoxville Medal of Honor Celebration Committee. He co-chaired the committee during the first convention.
He is currently a managing director at Raymond James investment services firm.
With the success of the event in 2014, the Medal of Honor Society chose to return to Knoxville.
“It’s only the second time they’ve come back to a city. They can go anywhere they want. In 2020 it was in Dallas. In 2021, it was in Boston. So for them to want to come to Knoxville, it means a lot. When they come here, they talk about the volunteer spirit; how they feel it. It’s a special place,” said Medal of Honor Committee Chair Joe Thompson said.
On Wednesday, Medal of Honor recipients will go into several classrooms to talk with high school students about character development.
“It was very important to teach young people and let them know of their commitment to this country. They have a commitment whether they know it or not and I tell them,” said Melvin Morris, Medal of Honor recipient.
“The character development program is about using the stories about the Medal of Honor recipients to teach civic lessons in the classrooms. About service, sacrifice, patriotism, courage and commitment. Who better to teach a lesson on service and sacrifice than a MOH recipient?” said Thompson.
The Medal of Honor flag was raised a year ago in Knoxville as the oldest Medal of Honor recipient Woody Williams, who passed away two months ago, was recognized in preparation for this year’s celebration.
As a tribute to the Metal of Honor Society, Woody’s legacy lives on. Since 2010, the Hershel Woody Williams Medal of Honor Foundation has been establishing permanent Gold Star Family memorials across the United States.
The memorials are dedicated to those who have lost loved ones in military conflict.
“It is incomprehensible to me that so many cities in our country have been willing to form committees to raise money and establish these memorial monuments,” said Woody Williams, Medal of Honor recipient.
At Knoxville’s Cathedral of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, Woody and other recipients who have died will be remembered this week.
“The memorial service Thursday morning starts at 9 a.m.,” said Thompson. “We are eulogizing or memorializing 10 Medal of Honor recipients who have passed away in the last year or received the Medal of Honor posthumously in the last year.”
Alvin York was the first famous Medal of Honor recipient, putting nearby Fentress County and his hometown of Pall Mall on the map. Alvin York’s heroism in Word War I was depicted in the popular 1941 movie Sergeant York, which is seen on many old movie channels today.
The history of the Medal of Honor goes back to the Civil War and Chattanooga, that’s where our nation’s highest military honor for valor was first awarded in 1863. 36 of the 54 living Medal of Honor recipients are expected to attend the celebration in Knoxville this week.