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Medal of Honor recipients share thoughts with service members

Col. Anthony Polashek, 934th Airlift Wing commander, pays tribute to Medal of Honor recipients Thomas Kelley, Robert Patterson and Harold Fritz. (Air Force Photo/Paul Zadach)

Col. Anthony Polashek, 934th Airlift Wing commander, pays tribute to Medal of Honor recipients Thomas Kelley, Robert Patterson and Harold Fritz. (Air Force Photo/Paul Zadach)

Tech. Sgt. Erica Hokkanen, 934th Development and Training Flight, sings the National Anthem before the ceremony. (Air Force Photo/Paul Zadach)

Tech. Sgt. Erica Hokkanen, 934th Development and Training Flight, sings the National Anthem before the ceremony. (Air Force Photo/Paul Zadach)

Tech. Sgt. Erica Hokkanen, 934th Development and Training Flight, talks with Medal of Honor recipient Thomas Kelley and Armed Forces Services Center Director Debra Cain. (Air Force Photo/Paul Zadach)

Tech. Sgt. Erica Hokkanen, 934th Development and Training Flight, talks with Medal of Honor recipient Thomas Kelley and Armed Forces Services Center Director Debra Cain. (Air Force Photo/Paul Zadach)

Senior Airman Justin Hruby, 27th Aerial Port Squadron, poses for a photo with Medal of Honor recipient Robert Patterson. (Air Force Photo/Paul Zadach)

Senior Airman Justin Hruby, 27th Aerial Port Squadron, poses for a photo with Medal of Honor recipient Robert Patterson. (Air Force Photo/Paul Zadach)

Senior Airman Raul Castillo, 934th Security Forces Squadron, talks with Medal of Honor recipient Robert Patterson. (Air Force Photo/Paul Zadach)

Senior Airman Raul Castillo, 934th Security Forces Squadron, talks with Medal of Honor recipient Robert Patterson. (Air Force Photo/Paul Zadach)

The Medal of Honor Meet and Greet  honors military, law enforcement, and first responders affiliated with assisting the Twin Cities 2016 hosting of the Congressional Medal of Honor Convention, set for October of this year.  (U.S. Air Force photo by Shannon McKay)

The Medal of Honor Meet and Greet honors military, law enforcement, and first responders affiliated with assisting the Twin Cities 2016 hosting of the Congressional Medal of Honor Convention, set for October of this year. (U.S. Air Force photo by Shannon McKay)

Medal of Honor Recipient, Mr. Harold "Hal" Fritz (right), exchanges coins with Col. Anthony Polashek (left), 934th Airlift Wing commander, upon his and fellow Medal of Honor Recipients' (center right), Mr. Robert Patterson and Mr. Thomas Kelley, arrivial at the Minneapolis-St. Paul Air Reserve Station, Minn.  The Medal of Honor Meet and Greet  honors military, law enforcement, and first responders affiliated with assisting the Twin Cities 2016 hosting of the Congressional Medal of Honor Convention, set for October of this year.  (U.S. Air Force photo by Shannon McKay)

Medal of Honor Recipient, Mr. Harold "Hal" Fritz (right), exchanges coins with Col. Anthony Polashek (left), 934th Airlift Wing commander, upon his and fellow Medal of Honor Recipients' (center right), Mr. Robert Patterson and Mr. Thomas Kelley, arrivial at the Minneapolis-St. Paul Air Reserve Station, Minn. The Medal of Honor Meet and Greet honors military, law enforcement, and first responders affiliated with assisting the Twin Cities 2016 hosting of the Congressional Medal of Honor Convention, set for October of this year. (U.S. Air Force photo by Shannon McKay)

MINNEAPOLIS-ST PAUL AIR RESERVE STATION, Minn. --

MINNEAPOLIS-ST. PAUL AIR RESERVE STATION, Minn. -- Three Medal of Honor recipients arrived at the 934th Airlift Wing to meet and interact with military personnel, local law enforcement and first responders all of whom will be providing assistance during the 2016 Congressional Medal of Honor Society convention that will be held here in the Twin Cities in October.

“There is nothing I can say that will be more valuable than the interactions that we’re going to continue to have here this evening,” said Col. Anthony Polashek, the 934th Airlift Wing commander as he addressed the recipients and the audience. “Thank you for your service that you continue to provide to our Country by your example, your leadership and reminding folks that the cost of being an American can be very high. Freedom is not free and you’re a great example and a great inspiration to all of us. Thank you!”

Thomas Kelly, president of the CMOHS, Robert Patterson, vice president of the CMOHS, and Harold “Hal” Fritz, former president of the CMOHS, whom are all recipients of the MOH were here in the Twin Cities to visit the various venues that will be used to host the upcoming convention.
“We currently have 76 living recipients. Six of them are World War II vets, six of them are Korean War Vets, 11 are Afghanistan veterans and the rest are Vietnam veterans,” said Kelley. “Out of those 76 we’re hoping that maybe 50 can make it to the convention.”
Since last year’s convention in Boston, Mass., the society has grown due to recent recipients of the MOH.

“Since then we’ve gained a couple of ‘new kids’ as we call them who have brought the average age of the membership of the MOH society from about 77 down to 70,” Kelley joked.

Patterson also provided a sense of comedy for the audience as he spoke of some of his experiences.
“I’m also their trouble maker. If anybody can cause trouble, I’m guilty,” Patterson said as he laughed. “If I were to join the Army today and do what I did then, they’d throw me out as being undesirable.”

Patterson also shared a story about a time when he received an Article 15 while serving in Vietnam. He indicated that when he received this Article 15, the issuing officer couldn’t help but laugh at the situation and continue to laugh the whole time he issued the Article 15. Years later Patterson ran into this same officer and asked him why he laughed all those years ago during what is typically a time of serious punishment.
“He looked at me and said ‘Sgt. Maj., I’m the only commander who can say that they recommended a person for a Medal of Honor in the morning and gave them an Article 15 in the afternoon,’” Patterson said with a smile as he recalled the story.

When addressing the audience, Fritz, who was the last speaker, related to the crowd on a personal note.
“All of us are on the same level playing field. We’re all looking at the same goal. We’re all looking at projecting, protecting and preserving freedom for all Americans,” Fritz said proudly. “It doesn’t matter whether I wear the Medal of Honor, whether I wear an Air Force uniform, an Army uniform, a Marine Corps uniform or I’m a civilian, we’re all here on the same team, we all care.”

Fritz also expressed how much he and his fellow recipients care for our country.

“We care about America, we care about the future. We have 76 living recipients and each of those recipients, besides the three of us that are here today, would tell you the same thing,” Fritz said. “The common thread that runs amongst all of us is our great love of this country, love of freedom and the willingness to sacrifice as far as we need to, to maintain it, for this generation and future generations.”

With the convention being held in Minnesota, Fritz also voiced his gratitude with respect to coming to the Twin Cities.
“We are glad to be here because of you. We’re going to be glad to be coming here as recipients because of you. Because we believe in you and we want to show Americans as we travel that we’re just ordinary Americans just like you…we just happened to be in a situation where a decision had to be made to save lives and we made that decision,” Fritz said.

A proud American, Fritz credited the freedoms we have in America to those present in the audience.
“We’ve got a lot of freedoms because of the men and women in uniform both military uniform and the first responders and the American people that support them,” Fritz voiced. “It takes blood, it takes dedication, sacrifice to maintain what we have today if we want to ensure that we have it today and for our future for our children and our grandchildren.”

As the event came to an end, Colonel Polashek expressed his gratitude towards the recipients.
“Thank you again for your time and for your sacrifice! Thank you for offering us this opportunity to come and speak to our folks,” Polashek said. “You’re such an inspiration and your service is an inspiration to all Americans. Thank you very much!”