By Dylan Becker
If you’ve heard me speak on the air at all, one of my most mentioned topics are my childhood heroes. Athletes, like Alex Ovechkin, musicians, like Dave Grohl, or comedians, like Norm MacDonald, are some of my most frequent mentions. These are people I grew up idolizing and helped influence who I am today. Last week, I spent time with a different kind of hero: Congressional Medal of Honor recipients. These men committed an extraordinary act of valor in the line of duty and were given the United States military’s highest award.
My itinerary for September 7th was making sure our documentary team got a good spot to film Black Hawk helicopters landing in World’s Fair Park and then go to Jefferson County High School to film students listening to the speeches of Matthew Williams and Thomas Norris, two recipients of the Medal of Honor. Both men received their medals for rescuing wounded men, Norris doing so in Vietnam and Williams in Afghanistan. Probably the biggest thing I got out of that day was watching the reactions of students. I remember when I was in their place, when the only time I heard about these heroes were if I watched something like Desmond Doss’ story in Hacksaw Ridge or John Basilone’s in The Pacific. Both of those, of course, were made for entertainment. That Wednesday, they were able to hear stories of heroism and valor from the men that were actually there, and I could tell it stuck with them as they walked out of the gym that day.
The early afternoon of September 9th consisted of watching an air show at McGhee Tyson airport. While eating my light breakfast of coffee and a bagel, I was able to speak to Brian Thacker, who served in Vietnam and ensured that a fire base wouldn’t be overrun by the enemy. Rather than talking about heroism and valor, we spent our time discussing the significance and history of various sports rivalries. Despite being a man who did something extraordinary, I was able to see the more human side of Thacker and connect in a more relatable way, showing that the men being honored for their significant acts were humans, too. At the air show, we captured footage of the Blue Angels and the reactions of recipients and their families. Being from Maryland, I had seen the Blue Angels at least once every year for the past twenty-one years. I wasn’t sure if anyone else had seen them before, but it was nice to see the looks of surprise from everyone throughout the show.
That same evening was the Civilian Honors Valor Awards Dinner, where the Medal of Honor Society recognized four civilians for their selfless act of heroism. This was probably the most fun event I participated in, because I sat around for hours talking to recipients of both the Medal of Honor and the Civilian Honor. Before the dinner, I was talking to the drummer of the Air National Guard Band of the South about music, when Sammy Davis, a recipient that rescued wounded men in Vietnam and literally inspired part of Forrest Gump, joined our discussion. This eventually led to Davis pulling out his harmonica to play “Rocky Top” while the drummer kept time for him. Later, I learned one of the civilians being recognized was Jonathan Bauer, a man from Maryland who jumped off a 30 foot bridge into the Assawoman Bay to rescue a toddler who had been ejected from a vehicle after a multi-vehicle crash. I remember hearing about his actions on the news back home, so it was an honor to meet someone who is not only being recognized with an award of significance, but a hero to my home state of Maryland, as well.
As of this writing, there are 65 living recipients of the Congressional Medal of Honor. Of the 65, 32 participated in last week’s events. When the night of September 9th came to a close, I could tell everyone there appreciated us giving back and honoring those who had served our country. Out of everything I saw and learned that week, I think that made the biggest impact.
Photo by Dylan Becker
For more information on the Congressional Medal of Honor, click here
About the Author
Hailing from Kent Island, MD, just an hour from Baltimore and DC, Dylan played hockey his entire life and has been a Capitals fan since day one. After 16 years of on ice action, he decided to hang up his skates in 2019, leave Maryland for Tennessee, and switch his focus to radio, talking about hockey whenever the opportunity arose on WUTK. In the Fall of 2020, Rock Solid Sports reached out to Dylan for his hockey expertise, to which he accepted and has been providing the Knoxville area with in depth knowledge of the NHL and reporting on the Ice Bears since. Dylan is also a fan of the Baltimore Ravens, Baltimore Orioles, and Washington Nationals.