Hundreds line up at book-signing to meet Medal of Honor recipien - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

Hundreds line up at book-signing to meet Medal of Honor recipients

WAIKIKI (HawaiiNewsNow) -

An estimated 700 to 800 people lined up for a book-signing event featuring some of the men who have received the nation's highest military honor.

Fifty of the recipients took part in the sold-out book signing event at the Hale Koa Hotel Saturday.

Many of the people in line had purchased a small book of Medal of Honor quotes, subtitled "Inspiration from America's Military Heroes." Most of the quotes came from the recipients themselves, who signed the page with their quote.

Those waiting in line at the event said it was much more than a rare opportunity. "It's an honor to see these men and shake their hand and tell them 'thank you' for their service and everything that they went trough, serving our country and defending our freedom," said Andrew Elliot, a member of the Hawaii Army National Guard. "It's just an honor to say thank you to them."

Leroy Petry is one of the youngest recipients, and is just the second living person to receive the medal since the Vietnam War. He carefully signed his page with his left hand. He had picked up a grenade with his right hand to save his fellow Army Rangers in Afghanistan when it exploded. Petry was attending just his second Medal of Honor Convention.

"The only thing I wanted to do was jump over the table and get signatures from all these recipients myself because they're still all my heroes," said Petry.

One of those heroes is Leo Thorsness, who received his Medal of Honor for service in Vietnam. He signs his page with the initials "G.B.U." beneath his name. He explained that it was part of a code he used when he was a prisoner of war in the infamous North Vietnamese prison known as the "Hanoi Hotel." Guards tortured prisoners if they so much as talked in solitary confinement. It was a way the prisoners could communicate with each other.

"If you could get to the wall with a tap code, you could tap 'G.B.U.' so the guard couldn't hear you," said Thorsness. "And if the guy on the other side could get to the wall and he wasn't in stocks, he'd come back and say 'G.B.U. G.N.' 'God bless you.' And 'God bless you. Good night.'"

It's not every day that you meet men who can tell these stories of heroism and survival, even if those men say that anyone could do what they did.

"They call us heroes. We're not. We just happened to be there at the time," said Thorsness. "We did our job, and everybody in the military is trained to do a job."

"Many of them will say that they just happened to be there at that place, at that time, and anybody would have done it. But, very much, humble heroes," said Mike Elliot, who was among those who waited in line for his book to be signed.

To learn more about the Medal of Honor convention and the recipients, click here.

Copyright 2012 Hawaii News Now. All rights reserved.

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