The Congressional Medal of Honor Society this week bestowed its annual Citizen Honors recognition on three civilians who demonstrated selfless bravery and service to others.
"It seems in each corner of America, in each and every community, there was some local hero — someone worthy of a nomination," Medal of Honor (MoH) recipient Drew Dix said during the Citizen Honors ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery on National Medal of Honor Day, March 25.
Each year, the MoH Society's Citizen Honors program selects three recipients from hundreds of applications. The nominees, which originate from all 50 states, are examined for impact, vetted and narrowed down to 20 finalists before the final selections are made.
The three honorees are:
• Connor Stotts, who saved three of his teenaged friends from drowning July 31, 2011. Now a sophomore at the University of Southern California and a midshipman on a Marine-Option Naval ROTC scholarship, Stotts and three friends were swept out to sea by a dangerous riptide. The Eagle Scout pulled each of his friends one at a time to safety by swimming through a strong current with another person in tow and returning into the current about 200 feet from the beach to rescue the others. American Legion Post 146 in Oceanside, Calif., earlier had given Stotts its Citizenship Award for his "outstanding actions."
• Sharon Landsberry, who accepted the award on behalf of her husband, Michael Landsberry. Working as a math teacher in a middle school, Landsberry was shot and killed Oct. 21 while trying to protect students from a 12-year-old gunman. Michael Landsberry was a 45-year-old retired Marine and member of the Nevada National Guard who served two tours in Afghanistan.
• Troy Yocum, an Army veteran who walked more than 7,000 miles across the United States to raise $1.3 million to support military families as part of his work to help other veterans. Yocum, who served in Iraq, received the award for an "ongoing act of service" for his founding of Active Heroes, a charity focused on preventing veteran suicides. The nonprofit provides lifetime assistance funds for wounded veterans, repairs homes for military families, offers a fitness team-building program with 10,000 active veterans, and is building a 144-acre retreat for military families in Shepherdsville, Ky.
During the presentation of the awards, 30 MoH recipients — representing war eras from World War II through the War on Terror — congratulated the citizen honorees.
Clint Romesha was among the MoH recipients who reviewed the nominations.
"In the military, we put on a uniform and we know the inherent risk of dangers we're getting into," he said. "But when average American citizens see their countrymen, their neighbor, their friends, their family in need of help, they react. And they do it because that's the greatest thing about being in this country. That brotherly love and independent spirit to continue to drive on."
The acts by the citizen honorees inspire veterans who have been awarded the nation's highest military medal.
"This proves why this is still the greatest country in the world," Romesha said. "It's a great reminder that heroic acts — uncommon valor — are not a thing of the past. They're still alive and well and thriving."