On Jan. 10 at the Medal of Honor Recipient Gala, 500 attendees stood in the presence of unvarnished valor, bravery and patriotism. We shook the hands of nine of the bravest men America has ever produced.

They are recipients of the Congressional Medal of Honor. I could name these men here, but I am sure each would declare that the medal recognizes the actions of not one man but many. Sen. John McCain, Captain, U.S. Navy, POW Vietnam, summed it up in his book, “Faith of My Fathers,” when he wrote, “Nothing in life is more liberating than to fight for a cause larger than yourself, something that encompasses you but is not defined by your existence alone.”

These nine men and the other 3,454 recipients of the Medal of Honor, of which 77 are living, would state that it is not what they did individually, but what all did collectively.

This gala was one of a number of events that will be known throughout the nation as the Medal of Honor Bowl Week. More than 90 young football players from across the country were brought together to compete in a contest that was, for many, the first step in their journey to the National Football League. In a real sense, they personify Sen. McCain’s statement about the greater cause as they strove to do their best as a part of a team to bring victory home.

Like the men they honor, they strove for victory for a cause. More importantly, these young men have dispelled the negative image of a few misguided athletes that the media have gone out of their way to exploit, glamorize and represent as the norm of today’s youth.

The Wounded Warriors luncheon brought together many of our nation’s wounded warriors who served and continue to serve in several of our nation’s past and current conflicts.

The gathering was privileged to have as its keynote speaker one of America’s greatest wounded warriors, Lt. Clebe McClary, U.S. Marine Corps (Retired). There may be no greater inspirational speaker in the country, and possibly in the world, today.

His message was one of striving to always better yourself and be thankful for what you have. He asked, “Whatcha gonna do with whatcha got?” Answer: Recognize God’s place in your life. His personal story is inspiration in its purest form.

I must salute Tommy McQueeney and his committee, who came together for a cause greater than themselves, and in 105 days made the Medal of Honor Bowl a reality.

Their dedication and effort produced a superlative sporting event, which showcased some of America’s finest young athletes and, at the same time, honored America’s greatest heroes.

I, for one, am waiting in excited anticipation for next year’s Medal of Honor Bowl.

Philip A. Stiles Jr.

Putnam Drive