Tampa is hosting the annual Medal of Honor convention this week, with festivities kicking off Tuesday.
It brings together 46 of the 70 living recipients of the nation’s highest military honor, given to those who risked their lives during service.
The convention is run by the Congressional Medal of Honor Society. The group’s president, Drew Dix, earned a Medal of Honor for his bravery while serving in the U.S. Army Special Forces during the Vietnam War.
"We look back on the situations that we were in on that day that may be considered the worst day of our lives, but if you look at it, it may have been the best day of our lives because you learn from experiences and we're able to pass onto our young people the meaning of sacrifice and the meaning of dealing with adversity,” he said.
Dix said the increased focus on outreach is part of the society’s evolving mission. He said when it was first formed in 1958, there were 400 living recipients, and the group's purpose was to foster comaraderie among them.
Now with just 70 recipents alive, there is an increased need to educate the public about what the Medal of Honor really means.
"To let the young people and the citizens of this country know there is something worth fighting for, and there’s also something more important than yourself," Dix said.
Recipients will visit 20 schools in Pasco, Pinellas and Hillsborough Counties during the convention, part of the ongoing Character Development Program that teaches children about Medal of Honor history and the importance of courage and integrity.
They’ll also attend other community events including a book signing and Thursday night’s Tampa Bay Lightning game, during which all 46 convention attendees will gather together on the ice at Amalie Arena for a ceremonial puck-drop.
The Lightning is sponsoring the convention. Many other community groups are also involved including the various military commands at MacDill Air Force Base, James A. Haley Veterans Hospital, local VFW’s, Boy Scout and Cub Scout troops and military family organizations.
The convention comes less than two weeks after one of the last three surviving Medal of Honor recipients for valor from World War II, Francis Currey, passed away.
But the society will gain a new member at the end of the month when President Trump presents a Medal of Honor to Master Sgt. Matthew Williams on Oct. 30. The award is an upgrade for the active duty Green Beret, who was awarded a Silver Star for his service in Afghanistan.
More than 3,500 Medals of Honor have been awarded since it was created during the Civil War. Six living recipients are Floridians.