Medal of Honor event honors heroic acts of ordinary people

ARLINGTON, Va. — Six years ago, David Bryan, a 53-year-old federal worker from Kansas City, Mo., helped rescue a man from a burning Missouri Highway Patrol car on Interstate 70 near Higginsville, Mo., after it was struck by a pickup truck.

So on National Medal of Honor Day, Bryan and two others received the Congressional Medal of Honor Foundation's second annual "Above & Beyond Citizen Honors."

In the solemn chill of an early spring afternoon at Arlington National Cemetery on Wednesday, a ceremony recognized 35 recipients of the Medal of Honor, the nation's highest military award. The event also commended acts of courage by ordinary people such as Bryan.

They "remind us that every one of us has the capacity for tremendous courage and heroism," said the foundation's Robert Howard, a Medal of Honor recipient and Green Beret during the Vietnam War.

Other recipients were Jeremy Hernandez, a 22-year-old Minnesota youth worker, and Rick Rescorla of New Jersey, who died on Sept. 11, 2001.

Hernandez saved more than 50 children in August 2007 when the Interstate 35W bridge collapsed in Minneapolis. Rescorla was a 62-year-old security official at Morgan Stanley Dean Witter when hijacked planes struck the World Trade Center. He evacuated thousands of people from the burning towers but wasn't seen again after they collapsed.

His son and daughter accepted the award.

"Heroes" has become a pretty shopworn label of late.

But if there is evidence to be found of heroism anywhere in the nation's capital, it's across the Potomac River, on a patch of rolling green meadows overlooking the city that enshrines lives that were lost, and battles won and the costs.

The ceremony took place just down the hill from the Tomb of the Unknowns, where the remains of unidentified Americans from the two world wars and Korea are interred.

Moments earlier, President Barack Obama had laid a wreath at the tomb, accompanied by four Medal of Honor recipients.

The president's visit had gone unannounced to avoid crowd control problems. He made no formal remarks, only his quiet thanks to each of the 35 highly decorated veterans as he shook their hands and patted their shoulders before leaving.

There are 98 living Medal of Honor recipients.

At Bryan's award ceremony, he stood before the same group of Medal of Honor recipients Obama had visited. Bryan's first words were to thank the motorist who aided him in rescuing Michael Nolte from the burning highway patrol car on May 22, 2003. He was unable to save the state trooper.

"I want to include Troy Brinkoetter as part of this ceremony," Bryan said. "Troy was with me to help pull Michael Nolte from the car that day. He, too, deserves your thoughts."

Missouri State Trooper Michael Newton had stopped Nolte for a traffic violation and was writing him a ticket when the truck crashed into the patrol car. Newton died and Nolte was seriously injured.

Candidates for the award can be nominated by anyone through the foundation's Web site, and apparently no one nominated Brinkoetter. A group of judges, including several Medal of Honor winners, pick finalists from each state and narrow them down to three.

Foundation president Nick Kehoe said Bryan's name came to its attention, "but we appreciate the courage of Troy."


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