Medal of Honor recipients gather at Plymouth diner to tout fundraiser

From left, Medal of Honor recipient Harvey C. Barnum, radio host and columnist Dom Giordano, and Medal of Honor recipients Brian Thacker, Mike Thornton, and Hershel Williams pose at Andy’s Diner in Plymouth before heading to the Gathering of Heroes benefit at the Irish Pub in Philadelphia Tuesday, April 14, 2015. Oscar Gamble ― The Times Herald


Gratitude for American heroism was the order of the day at Andy’s Diner Tuesday morning as four of only 79 living Medal of Honor recipients were special guests at a live broadcast of the Dom Giordano radio show.

Vietnam veterans Col. Harvey C. “Barney” Barnum Jr., USMC, Navy Seal Michael E. Thornton, and Army 1st Lt. Brian M. Thacker joined Marine Chief Warrant Officer Hershel “Woody” Williams, the last surviving Iwo Jima veteran to receive the nation’s highest military decoration, on a mission to get the word out about the sixth annual “Gathering of Heroes” fundraiser, a benefit for the families of fallen men and women in uniform, which takes place Tuesday from 5 to 8 p.m. at the Irish Pub, 2007 Walnut St., Philadelphia.

This year, the Marine Corps Law Enforcement Foundation will present $300,000 in education bonds to the families of Marines and Army personnel killed in a helicopter training accident in Florida last month.

The event features live and silent auctions, with prizes including a suite at Citizen’s Bank Park for a Phillies game, VIP Army Navy game tickets, and a hunting trip to Quantico, Va. The Medal of Honor recipients will also be on hand to sign books and citations for sale and serve as guest bartenders, alongside Montgomery County District Attorney Risa Vetri Ferman and other officials.

“The Irish Pub and the Marine Corps Law Enforcement Foundation care so much about our young men and women and the sacrifice they give,” said Thornton, who was cited for returning to the scene of an ambush to save the life of a severely wounded superior officer in October 1972. “People do remember, and as long as we remember, as Americans, their loss will never be forgotten.”

Barnum, who in December 1965 assumed command of his rifle company and rallied fellow troops after the their commander was killed in action, stressed the importance of giving aid to the children of the fallen Marines.

“Their parents paid the ultimate sacrifice,” he said. “So it’s very rewarding. There’s not a greater thing that Mike and I can do than what we’ll do tonight. And that’s look people in the eye, make them stop, pause and reflect on who we are, what this country has done, and what people have done to maintain this great country, and what still needs to be done.”

Thacker received the Medal of Honor for selflessly remaining behind enemy lines so his fellow soldiers could evacuate an area under siege in March 1971. He said he was grateful for the opportunity to educate the next generation about the history of sacrifice by American servicemen and women, and looked forward to helping out later at the Irish Pub.

I’ll do anything I can do to have people put money in the can,” said Thacker, who volunteered to tend bar if needed. “We have an obligation to keep investing … It’s a nice way, it’s a fun way, but any way counts.”

Thacker also said that he was happy to be back in Philadelphia, which he called “a great city, very mindful of it’s heritage.”

Williams, decked out in a red Marine Corps blazer and cap, was cited for acts of gallantry, including dispatching enemy combatants in pillbox fortifications with a flamethrower while under fire on Iwo Jima in February 1945. Williams told Giordano that he doesn’t believe that today’s youth truly understand the sacrifices made by those who served in previous generations, but expressed enthusiasm for the chance to raise awareness and money for a worthy cause at the same time.

“It’s amazing that they can come up with that kind of money, number one,” said Williams of the funds raised by the MC-LEF. “And then rewarding as to what they’re doing with it. So I’m going to have a small part in that somehow.”

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