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Congressional Medal recipients gather for ceremony
September 24, 2015
By Henry Schwan The Metro West Daily News September 19, 2015
CONCORD - As retired Navy Capt. Thomas Hudner, Jr. sat in a motorized cart, Mike Thornton approached and asked, “You got a limo, and I had to walk?”
It was a moment of good-natured teasing between two recipients of the nation’s highest military honor on a warm Saturday at Minute Man National Historical Park.
Hudner and Thornton were part of a group of six living Congressional Medal of Honor recipients who were honored during a ceremony at the Old North Bridge - the site of the “shot heard round the world,” and the start of the American Revolution.
The event was part of the 2015 Congressional Medal of Honor Society’s annual convention, which is being held in Boston this week.
Approximately 42 of the 78 living medal recipients attended the convention, and their schedule has been busy, including visits to Boston-area schools and the Massachusetts Statehouse.
The visit to the Old North Bridge had special significance for Hudner, who has lived in Concord for the past 42 years.
Standing next this son, Tom III, Hudner, 91, listened to musket and cannon fire from the Concord Independent Battery and local Minutemen companies.
“I’m very proud to live in Concord,” Hudner said. “We’re lucky to have the country that we have.”
While Hudner received hugs from well-wishers, his son told the story of his father’s heroism during the Korean War.
On Dec. 4, 1950, Hudner crashed his plane into a mountainside in North Korea in an attempt to save the life of his wingman, Jesse Brown, the first African-American aviator in the U.S. Navy, whose plane was shot down over the Chosin Reservoir.
Brown was still alive when Hudner reached him, but died from injuries sustained in the crash.
A book by author Adam Makos - “Devotion – An Epic Story of Heroism, Friendship, and Sacrifice” – will be released next month, describing the bond between Hunder and Brown.
“It’s a tremendous honor, it’s overwhelming,” Hudner’s son said with tears in his eyes as he described Saturday’s event. “I have a lot of pride in my dad and the town of Concord.”
Sandra Swanson attended the ceremony for her late husband, Captain Jon. E. Swanson, a medal recipient whose plane was shot down in Cambodia in 1971.
“I’m here for my husband,” Swanson said. “I need to make sure people are aware of what he’s done, what he believed in and what he felt was important.”
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