Officials at the Capt. James A. Lovell Federal Health Care Center in North Chicago didn't have to go far to land an apropos guest for National Medal of Honor Day.
Gurnee resident Allen Lynch, who received the medal for his Vietnam heroics in 1967, was honored in the federal medical complex's main lobby Monday. The ceremony was capped by Lynch cutting a cake with his likeness on it.
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It was one of many ways National Medal of Honor Day was recognized across the country. For example, several Medal of Honor recipients were at Arlington National Cemetery to participate in a wreath-laying ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.
At the Lovell health care center in North Chicago, Director Patrick Sullivan opened the ceremony by thanking Lynch for going above and beyond the call of duty to save fellow soldiers in battle. Sullivan noted Lynch is among those receiving health care at the Lovell facility, where Great Lakes Naval Station personnel and Department of Veterans Affairs clients have had access to the same services since it opened in October 2011.
Navy Capt. Myron Yencha, acting deputy director and commanding officer for the center, said he was humbled to be in Lynch's presence Monday.
"Our utmost gratitude goes out to you, Sgt. Lynch, for what you did that day (in 1967) and on many, many other days during your loyal service in the Army," Yencha said.
Lynch's was a specialist 4th class in the Army working as a telephone operator on Dec. 15, 1967, when he performed his heroic acts in Vietnam. While under fire, Lynch ran across open ground several times to rescue wounded colleagues, protecting them while he shot at the enemy.
He remained after his unit withdrew and defended his isolated position for about two more hours and rescued more wounded soldiers.
Lynch told the crowd it's not those wearing the Medal of Honor who make it important. Rather, he said, the Medal of Honor stands for the warrior ethos of placing service over self.
"We have the Medal of Honor," Lynch said. "We hold it in trust. There are many men and women that have earned this that have never been recognized for it. It's a sacred honor all of us hold. As we go through life, we do the best we can to honor this medal and all of those who should have gotten it but didn't."
Lynch is the only Medal of Honor recipient living in Lake County. He formally received the medal from President Richard Nixon in 1970.
About 80 of 3,460 Medal of Honor recipients are alive. The first award was presented in March 1863.