For the Chronicle
For Adam Brunk, there will never be another day like Aug. 21, 2016. That was the day he witnessed a head-on collision and, putting aside his own well-being, helped rescue a couple from a burning pickup on the rural byways of Missouri.
Nor will there be another day like March 25, 2017, when the Congressional Medal of Honor (CMoH) Foundation’s Citizen Honors Award was placed around Brunk’s neck during a public ceremony in Washington. D.C.. in acknowledgement of his selfless act of bravery.
Brunk moved to the Show Me State after graduating from Crystal River High School in 2004. Following the collision, he and a passerby, Westminster College student Jacob Ellis, were able to rescue the couple before emergency response personnel arrived at the scene. Ellis also received the citizens award.
“To say we were taken care of is an understatement,” Adam said of the ceremony. “They went all out; it was a real honor.”
Honorees stayed at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Pentagon City and participated in three days of tours, lunches, dinners and ceremonies, complete with full military regalia, pomp and circumstance.
Honorees also got to meet and dine with 24 past CMoH recipients, Adam said.
“Each one of them talked with me and got to know me and I got to know them,” he said. Events concluded on National Medal of Honor Day, March 25, with the laying of a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery.
“The National Medal of Honor Day experience was absolutely fantastic,” said Adam’s father, Scott, who accompanied his son to Washington and still resides in Crystal River. “Nothing was left out. It completely exceeded our expectations. The red carpet was rolled out and the honorees were celebrities. In those three days that was the most I’d ever heard the ‘Star Spangled Banner’ and Pledge of Allegiance.”
According to the CMoH Foundation website, at http://themedalofhonor.com/citizen-honors, a nationwide search is conducted annually by the Congressional Medal of Honor Foundation, which selects four U.S. citizens and one organization from all those nominated to receive the Citizen Honors awards.
“Anybody can nominate someone,” at the oganization’s website, Scott said. “But the names of those who make the nominations are kept secret.” He noted Adam has no idea who nominated him and Ellis for the award.
The Citizens Honors awards are presented by living members of the Congressional Medal of Honor Society, who have received the Medal of Honor for their own acts of valor performed during wartime.
“Every day in this country, ordinary Americans become extraordinary. It can happen in a single instance of bravery נor through service to others,” states the CMoH Foundation website. “These acts of courage and self-sacrifice symbolize the American spirit.”
Recipients were escorted by police and honor guard in parade-like presentations.
“The laying of the wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier was spectacular. Cherry blossoms were blooming everywhere,” he said.
A final dinner was held at the Library of Congress.
“What a beautiful building and, wow, what a place to have this affair,” Scot said.
“It was definitely a once-in-a-lifetime experience,” Adam said. “Becoming a CMoH recipient is like becoming a member of a family. Now that I’m a part of this family, if I can I want to help the organization and help turn some kids’ lives around.”
For starters, Adam plans to become involved in the CMoH Society’s Community Development Program, which will have him speaking to kids at schools and in programs throughout Missouri.
His message: Don’t be afraid to help somebody without being asked. Doing so can help change a bad situation to a better one.
“There’s not many people out there like that anymore,” Adam said, “and there used to be.”