On National Medal of Honor Day, civilians are recognized for valor and service

By STARS AND STRIPES Published: March 25, 2021

WASHINGTON — Recipients of the nation's highest military honor marked National Medal of Honor Day on Thursday with ceremonies curtailed by the coronavirus pandemic, but a traditional continued with the announcement of the annual Citizen Honors Award recipients.

In the past, those who received the citizen award from the Congressional Medal of Honor Society were participants in ceremonies in the Washington area on March 25. This year, however, Citizen Honors Service awardees (Service Act, Youth Service and Community Service) will be given on July 14 at a banquet in Charleston, S.C., and the Citizen Honors Valor awardees (Single Act of Heroism and Young Hero) will be honored at a dinner in Boston on September 10.

The following people and groups are being honored this year as "outstanding Americans who have gone above and beyond to perform extraordinary acts of courage or service," according to a Congressional Medal of Honor Society press release.

Single Act of Heroism Award (two honorees)

Raina Neeland of Bagley, Minn. (posthumous) was selected for rescuing three young cousins after they were swept over the Clearwater Dam at Clearwater Lake.  She succumbed to the current.

David Dorn of St. Louis, Mo. (posthumous) was mortally wounded while saving his friend’s business from looters.

Young Hero Award

Chris Stone of Santa Fe, Texas (posthumous), used his body as a human barricade on May 18, 2018 to keep a school shooter from entering a classroom, saving the lives of many students while losing his own.

Service Act

Aidan Reilly and James Kanoff of Pacific Palisades, Calif., responded to the pandemic crisis by creating a grassroots initiative — the FarmLink Project – connecting farmers with surplus product to communities in need.

Youth Service Award

Charles (Charlie) Austin of Brunswick, Maine, donated time and money to help fund and develop The Warrior Program, a virtual training program for Special Olympics Maine. In spite of his health limitations, he was determined to stay in the world of sports and immersed himself in helping athletes of Special Olympics Maine.


Community Service Hero Award

The Gary Sinise Foundation, now in its 10th year, was selected for outstanding service to the service members, military families and first responders "through creation and support of unique programs ​​designed to entertain, educate, inspire, strengthen, and build communities."

Chartered in 1958, the Congressional Medal of Honor Society is limited to Medal of Honor recipients, of whom 69 are alive today. "The Society is unique in that its membership hopes that there will be no need to welcome new inductees," the press release notes.



Medal of Honor recipients Edwin C. Byers, left, and Brian M. Thacker, at a Medal of Honor Day wreath-laying ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery. March 20, 2021.

Actor Gary Sinise's foundation has been honored by the Congressional Medal of Honor Society with a Community Service Hero Award for "outstanding service to our military, their families and first responders."