COVINA — Two recipients of the Congressional Medal of Honor were among veterans honored Sunday at the opening ceremony for the Covina Field of Valor.
In front of a display of more than 2,000 American Flags meticulously placed on the field of Sierra Vista Middle School, grateful citizens listened to stories of heroism and sacrifice, as well as of love and the unconquerable spirit.
“This week, this unique and awesome display of 2,000 of our great nation’s flags places Covina in its fines hour, honoring those who have fallen on our behalf, representing those vets who have made the sacrifice to a grateful nation, and providing thanks and admiration to those brave men and women in uniform who are currently preserving this land of the free here and abroad,” Covina Mayor Walt Allen III said.
“I look forward to seeing you all week long during this week of recognition for those who have served,” the mayor said. In addition to extending Veteran’s Day wishes to all current and former service members, Allen also wished the U.S. Marine Corps a happy birthday, as Sunday marked the corps’ 238th anniversary.
With the number of living Medal of Honor recipients shrinking rapidly, those that remain consider passing along the lessons they’ve learned through their service to be a high priority, said keynote speaker, retired Army Colonel and Medal of Honor recipient Jack H. Jacobs of New York.
Jacobs received the nation’s highest military honor for valor displayed in Vietnam in March of 1968, Covina Police Chief and Saturday’s master of ceremonies Kim Raney said. After the commander of his company was disabled and his unit fell into disorder. Although wounded himself, Jacobs took command of the men and restored organization. He then ran across open rice paddies through heavy enemy fire to evacuate wounded.
The central message veterans can impart to young people is, “to be part of a community, to work not just for yourself, but for all of us,” Jacobs said. “It’s not about war. It’s not about war at all.”
“It’s really kind of an irony that you have to go to combat to learn love, real love.” he said. “Although we fight to accomplish the mission, and we fight to defend the country, when the going gets really, really tough, most of all, we fight
for each other.
“This is true in combat, and it should also be true out of combat,” Jacobs said. “It’s these values we want to teach kids in middle school and high school, so they will teach it to their children and their children’s children, so that the sacrifice of all of our brothers and sisters who brought us here today won’t be in vain.”
To that end, Jacobs has teamed with other Medal of Honor recipients to create a curriculum they have made available to schools.
Also present Saturday was Congressional Medal of Honor recipient and retired Army Command Sgt. Maj. Gary L. Littrell of Kentucky.
Littrell also received the medal for valor displayed during the Vietnam War in April of 1970. As the sole surviving advisor in his battalion, which was under heavy enemy attack, Littrell spent four straight days inspiring his men, directing artillery and air support, tending to wounded, distributing ammunition and strengthening faltering defenses, according to Field of Valor representatives.
“it’s rare to meet one Medal of Honor recipient,” Police Chief Raney said. “Today we have two in the front row.”
In addition to the Covina Police Chief and Mayor, other dignitaries in attendance included Glendora Mayor Joseph Santoro, Azusa Mayor Joe Rocha and retired Army Major General Clyde A Hennies, who is president of the Congressional Medal of Honor Society.
Music was provided by singers from St. Louise De Marillac Church in Covina.
This week marks the second year of the Covina Field of Valor, created by the Covina Rotary Club. It will remain in place at Grand Avenue and Puente Street through Nov. 17. Admission is free.
Microsoft has announced plans to feature the Covina Field of Valor on it’s Bing search engine home page as part of its Veterans Day observance.
Flag sponsorships are sold to raise money to benefit veterans, and many flags were affixed with the names of current, former and slain military members. Living veterans are denoted with yellow ribbons, while black ribbons adorn flags commemorating veterans who made the ultimate sacrifice.
PHOTOS: (top – Flags at the Covina Field of Valor, photographed Saturday, Nov. 9, 2012. (center) - Retired Army Colonel and Medal of Honor recipient Jack H. Jacobs meets “Sgt. Caesar” the bull dog at the openeing ceremony of the Covina Field of Valor on Sunday, Nov. 10, 2013. (bottom) Retired Army Colonel and Medal of Honor recipient Jack H. Jacobs speaks to a crowd at the opening ceremony of the Covina Field of Valor on Sunday, Nov. 10, 2013.