Knoxville welcomes Medal of Honor Society as many aging veterans gather

The Medal of Honor Celebration in Knoxville has come and gone, and this may be one of the last such events.

Joe Thompson, president of the Knoxville celebration, worked hard to coordinate the event to ensure it was a success. He joked that after the whirlwind of festivities ended, he changed his phone number and email and then retired.

Knoxville is one of two cities to host the distinguished celebration twice, having hosted it in 2014. Thompson said the Congressional Medal of Honor Society could have chosen any city for the event of a week, but the fact that she hosted her celebration in Knoxville says volumes twice. community values.

“The fact that they wanted to come to Knoxville says a lot about what they see and feel when they get here,” he said. “The spirit of East Tennessee, where we serve our country and we serve our communities. And if they feel it.”

Thompson said the celebration is unlikely to return a third time. But that’s not an indictment of Knoxville’s accommodation capabilities.

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As 65 living Medal of Honor recipients age, it has become more difficult for the dwindling number to come together for these gatherings.

Thompson recalled how the medal recipient and Vietnam War veteran Roger Donlon, and his wife, Norma, were so excited to return that they had their luggage delivered to the hotel to ensure there would be no delays getting off the plane. With Roger struggling with Alzheimer’s disease and unlikely to attend another event, Norma told Thompson she wanted Knoxville to be her last celebration.

Many of the recipients are in the same situation as Roger, which made the celebration even more special.

“Having her say, ‘I want this to be Roger’s last convention,’ speaks to the spirit of volunteerism,” Thompson said. “This will be, I bet you 100%, the last convention for many Medal of Honor recipients.”

Guests gather around signs of Medal of Honor recipients at the Patriot Awards gala hosted by the Medal of Honor convention at the Knoxville Conventional Center on Saturday.

And while the society gathering may not return in the same capacity, if at all, Thompson said Knoxville will welcome the recipients with open arms.

“If they want to come back and do a smaller event or something,” he said. “We can always do events.

The activities ended on Saturday evening with the Patriot Gala, a dinner with around 1,300 attendees hosted by the actor Gary Sinisshowcasing the work of Medal of Honor Society civilian recipients:

  • Courtney Kube, NBC Correspondent received the Tex McCrary Award for Excellence in Journalism
  • Former UN Ambassador Nikki Haley Receives Patriot Award
  • Dr. Timothy Miller received the Distinguished Citizen Award for his work on surgical reconstruction of injured veterans
  • Actor Glen Powellwho stars in upcoming Korean War real-life drama “Devotion,” received Bob Hope Award for Excellence in Entertainment

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