- The Washington Times - Friday, June 27, 2003

The first-ever Congressional Medal of Honor Society Golf Classic at the Lansdowne Resort in Leesburg, Va., brought three war generations together to recognize their collective bravery.

But first, the 16 assembled heroes got to play a spirited round of golf.

Tuesday’s celebration treated the war veterans to 18 holes on the verdant Robert Trent Jones Jr. golf course, then to a cocktail reception and dinner.

The recipients of the Medal of Honor, the highest award a soldier can receive for heroism in the line of duty, ranged from World War II combatants, circa 1944, to those who battled the Viet Cong in the ‘60s and early ‘70s.

Ask any one of them about his heroism and he’ll likely say he was just doing his duty.

Their actions signified much more than that to the 300-plus guests in attendance, who spoke in reverential tones of the men’s bravery in battle: a group which included Gen. Barry McCaffrey, NBC News commentator and formernational drug czar; and Maj. Gen John Bradley, assistant to the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff for Reserve Matters. Some attendees appeared misty eyed as they shared their appreciation with the war veterans.

The evening’s cocktail reception was followed by a silent auction, with the $60,000 raised going to the Congressional Medal of Honor Society. The organization works to prevent unauthorized use or exploitation of the medal and provides financial assistance to needy recipients, their widows and children.

Memories of their own war experiences often come to mind when the heroes hear the latest military news from Iraq.

World War II veteran Van Barfoot, who served as a second lieutenant in the Army’s 157th Infantry, said it hurts to watch recent military updates about the war and its aftermath.

“It is very painful to see young men being sent into situations that could have been prevented if we had been more alert,” the Mississippi native said. “In the future, we’re going to have to take action earlier, diplomatically or otherwise.”

Ron Ray, a captain in the Army who threw himself between a live grenade and his fellow soldiers during the Vietnam War, said most of the medal recipients were honored not so much for killing the enemy but for saving fellow soldiers.

Hershel “Woody” Williams, a corporal in the Marine Corps during World War II, tried to describe the bond felt between the men.

“We have no rank … we’re all equal,” explained Mr. Williams, who fought for four hours straight under withering enemy fire to wipe out enemy encampments at Iwo Jima.

At the time, “I didn’t know the Medal of Honor existed. We didn’t go there to win anything, except the war,” he said.

Jed L. Babbin, a military author and contributor to National Review Online, said the extraordinary men were “in the right place at the wrong time,” a phrase he said the men himself often employ to deflect excess praise.

Mr. Babbin observed that members of the U.S. Senate often claim they belong to the most exclusive club in the land.

“They ain’t even close,” he said, pointing to several medal winners standing nearby.

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