Medal Of Honor Recipients Pack Gainesville For Annual Host Program

Alan Scaia
April 12, 2019 - 9:58 am
Medal of Honor Recipients

Credit: Alan Scaia, 1080 KRLD

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GAINESVILLE (1080 KRLD) - Twenty four Medal of Honor recipients from across the country have arrived in Gainesville for the city's annual Medal of Honor Host Program.

Gainesville started the program in 2001, and the city has dedicated a park to recipients.

"We're here to say, 'Thank you very much. We appreciate your support of our veterans, support of our military and support of our country,'" says Hal Fritz, who lives in Chicago.

Fritz received the Medal of Honor for his actions in Vietnam. An Army 1st lieutenant at the time, he was injured in an ambush. Even after he was shot and while gunfire continued, he ran from vehicle to vehicle to help other wounded soldiers and distribute ammunition.

"I just wear the award as a messenger to explain and show the patriotism and dedication of all those who served in Vietnam, Korea, World War Two, all those that have served and will serve," he says. "It's a matter of teamwork."

Recipients also spoke to students at Gainesville High School and Lee Intermediate School. They are attending several ceremonies and visited the city's Medal of Honor Park.

"The whole community gets into this," says Mike Thornton, a retired Navy petty officer. "It's just a great community, unbelievable."

Thornton received the award for returning through enemy gunfire to rescue a lieutenant who was wounded and unconscious.

The event at Medal of Honor Park drew residents of Gainesville, but some say they come from as far away as New Mexico for the Host Program every year.

"Last year was the first time. I thought, 'Hey, this is pretty cool.' It's patriotism, apple pie, all that stuff," said one man who came from Gallup, New Mexico.

A total of 80 schools, local and state agencies have entries in Saturday's parade. Fritz has made the trip from Chicago most years since the program started.

"This is a special place," he says. "As the police were going by, a guy stopped his car and stepped out and gave us a salute. That's why. Right there."

Gainesville was scheduled to host a parade Saturday morning, but it was cancelled due to the threat of severe weather.