Legion saluting American heroes

A tradition that began for The American Legion in 1953 continues Jan. 21, when the organization will sponsor an inauguration-related event in the nation’s capital. But the event isn’t only about the inauguration. It’s also meant to honor dozens of those who have achieved the highest honor one can achieve in military service.

On Monday, The American Legion Salute to Heroes Inaugural Ball will bring more than 25 Medal of Honor recipients to the Renaissance Washington, D.C. Downtown Hotel on the occasion of the 57th Presidential Inauguration. The American Legion is sponsoring the event, while 13 other veterans service organizations are co-sponsors.

The Salute to Heroes will present the opportunity for the president and vice president – who traditionally attend the ball – to meet face to face with the Medal of Honor recipients.

"We are bringing these men here to honor and salute them," said American Legion National Commander James E. Koutz, who also will attend the event. "But we are truly honored to have these heroes among us. What they did goes well above and beyond the call of duty, and they deserve both our recognition and our thanks."

Along with the Medal of Honor recipients, another special guest will be former longtime "NBC Nightly News" anchor Tom Brokaw, the author of "The Greatest Generation." A 1998 recipient of The American Legion National Commander’s Public Relations Award, Brokaw wrote "The Greatest Generation" to chronicle the lives of Americans who grew up during the Great Depression and fought in World War II – either overseas or on the home front. Brokaw called them "the greatest generation any society has ever produced."

Brokaw also participated in the Legion’s Boys State program and was elected governor of the South Dakota program.

"We will be honoring men who fought and sacrificed in America’s wars, including a few of ‘The Greatest Generation’ who defended our country in World War II," Koutz said. "Mr. Brokaw wrote an outstanding book about that generation, and I’m sure all of our Medal of Honor attendees look forward to seeing him at the ball."

Other guests will include Rep. Jeff Miller (R-Fla.), chairman of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), chairman of the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs. Other attendees will include U.S. military personnel who have served, and are serving, in the war on terrorism, celebrities, and guest dignitaries. Media covering the banquet and ball include CNN, (serving as pool camera for other networks), The Christian Broadcasting Network, Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, Military.com, Stars & Stripes, The Washington Post, The Washington Times, Military Times, Politico and Bloomberg News.

"This event is an opportunity to congratulate the president and again offer our resources to work with him for America’s veterans and military," Koutz said. "But it’s also the opportunity for the man elected to lead our nation to come face to face with a special group of Americans who have proven in battle that the values we hold dear are worth fighting for."

Tickets are $250 apiece for the banquet and ball, and $125 apiece for admission to the ball only. For ticket purchases, please contact Wanda Tallakson at (202) 861-2700 or wtallakson@legion.org. The deadline to purchase tickets is today.

The following are the confirmed Medal of Honor recipients who will be in attendance at the Salute to Heroes. Click on their names to read the official MOH citation.

John Baca

Donald Ballard  

Gary B. Beikirch

Patrick H. Brady

Sammy L. Davis

Roger H.C. Donlon

Walter D. Ehlers

Harold A. Fritz

Salvatore A. Giunta

Thomas J. Hudner Jr.

Joe M. Jackson

Jack Jacobs

Walter J. Marm Jr.

Thomas R. Norris

Robert E. O’Malley

Robert M. Patterson

Leroy A. Petry

Alfred Rascon

Ronald E. Ray

Gordon R. Roberts

Ronald E. Rosser

James M. Sprayberry

Kenneth E. Stumpf

Brian M. Thacker

Hershel W. Williams


For up-to-date coverage of the Salute to Heroes on Jan. 21, visit the Legion’s National Headquarters Facebook Page or follow the Legion on Twitter.