While celebrating their wedding anniversary on the island of Oahu, Hawaii, Jamestown residents Terry and Joanne Christ experienced something unexpected and humbling.
Every year, the Christs, who were married on Sept. 27, 1969, spend the weeks surrounding their anniversary at the Hale Koa Hotel on the Fort DeRussy military reservation in Honolulu. On the morning of Oct. 3, they encountered some distinguished guests also staying at the Hale Koa.
The Christs had come across the 2012 Congressional Medal of Honor Society Convention, which included many of the 80 currently living Medal of Honor recipients. The recipients were preparing to board three tour buses, which were escorted by a police motorcycle unit, on their way to a ceremony at the island's Punchbowl Cemetery. The ceremony was for the unveiling and dedication of a memorial stone in honor of 32 Medal of Honor recipients interred at the cemetery.
Jamestown residents Terry and Joanne Christ meet a group of Medal of Honor recipients at the 2012 Congressional Medal of Honor Society Convention in Honolulu’s Hale Koa Hotel.
"We had no clue," said Mrs. Christ. "There was this big table set up (in the lobby) that said, 'Check-in for Medal of Honor recipients,' and then we saw them all waiting to get on these buses."
The Medal of Honor is America's highest military honor and is awarded for personal acts of valor above and beyond the call of duty. Since Congress made the Medal of Honor a permanent decoration in 1863, there have been a total of 3,476 recipients.
The Christs immediately started taking pictures of and with some of the recipients and had an opportunity to talk with two of them: Michael Fitzmaurice and Leroy Petry.
Fitzmaurice, U.S. Army Specialist Fourth Class, received his medal in 1973 for "conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty" while serving in Khe Sanh, Vietnam, in 1971.
Petry, U.S. Army Staff Sgt., received his medal in 2011 for his acts of valor while serving in the Patyka Province of Afghanistan in 2008. Petry was wounded in combat by an enemy grenade, losing his right hand and forearm as a result.
"(Petry) had a prosthetic on with fingers and everything," said Christ.
"It felt like a hand and you could feel the grip," said Mrs. Christ. "He shook hands with my husband and when he got to me, he looked at me like maybe I was going to wince or something, but I just shook his hand and patted him on the back and said, 'God bless you for what you've done.'"
Another recipient who can be found in one of the Christ's pictures is Salvatore Giunta, U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Giunta received his medal in 2010 for his service in Korengal Valley, Afghanistan, in 2007. Since then, Giunta has received much media attention and has participated in several television talk shows.
"None of them talked about how they got the medal," said Christ. "Only Mike (Fitzmaurice) said anything about it, and he just said he was in Vietnam."
The Congressional Medal of Honor Society Convention takes place every year during the last week of September and into October. The 2011 convention was held in Louisville, Ky., and the 2013 convention will be held in Gettysburg, Pa.
"They were there for one week, and it was filled up with things for them to do," said Mrs. Christ. "And the (Congressional Medal of Honor) Society pays for their flight, meals, hotel and everything every year in recognition of them and what they did for our country."
Other events that took place in the 2012 convention included a book signing, a "Downtown Honolulu Block Party" and a Patriot Award dinner.
"We go there every year for our anniversary, and it just so happened that we were lucky enough to be there and witness it," said Mrs. Christ.
"To me, it was a better honor to see them than the President of the United States," said Christ.
To learn more about the Congressional Medal of Honor Society, visit www.cmohs.org. The site includes a complete listing of every Medal of Honor recipient since the Civil War and a brief description of why the medal was bestowed upon them. It also includes a link to the conventions, which contains photos and a listing of the events taking place throughout the week.