Carl T. Hayden Veterans Hospital - Phoenix, AZ
The faces in the photographs are ordinary, but the extraordinary bravery and selflessness of Medal of Honor recipients shines in their artful black and white portraits that comprise the Visions of Valor exhibit.
Visions of Valor, presented by TriWest Healthcare Alliance, began its regional tour on Pearl Harbor Day at the Carl T. Hayden Veterans Hospital in Phoenix, marked by a grand opening ceremony attended by Medal of Honor recipients and local dignitaries.
"We deal with heroes every day," said John Fear, the hospital's director, "but this is a special thrill."
At this first showing there was the special atmosphere of a premier mixed with reverence. Visions of Valor is the first exhibit of its kind to pay respect to the nation's greatest heroes, and a number veterans and patients mingled among the local officials and hospital staff gathered for the ceremony. "Thanks to my good friend, (TriWest President and CEO) David McIntyre, who is doing all this," said Fred Ferguson of Chandler, Arizona. Ferguson earned the Medal of Honor in daring back-to-back helicopter flights through intense enemy fire to rescue the crew of a downed chopper during the Vietnam war.
— CDR Margo Spears, USNR, NC
Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon felt the reverence, too. "I'm at a loss for words today because I'm standing in the presence of so many heroes," he said. "I think this is a phenomenal tribute. I want to thank TriWest, a corporate sponsor that steps up and goes beyond."
Air Force fighter pilot and Medal of Honor recipient Leo Thorsness, who earned the medal in combat over North Vietnam and protecting his downed wingman, drove the more than 100 miles from Tucson to attend the opening. In the humbleness that is the make-up of all Medal of Honor recipients, he remembered those who didn't come home. "We're caretakers of this," said Thorsness, touching the medal suspended on a ribbon of blue with white stars. "What we all say is we wear this for others, for all those veterans who didn't come home." Quoting a poem he told those gathered that, "It's the solider not the reporter who gave us the right to free speech. It's the soldier not the lawyer who gave us the right to a fair trial," and, in that manner, he went through all the rights Americans enjoy under freedom bought and paid for in service and blood by America's veterans.
McIntyre, in closing the ceremony, drew attention back to the photographs hanging on the walls. The qualities visible in the faces, and the love of country, devotion to duty and faithfulness to self, all expressed in sentiments below their pictures, he said, "is representative of the character of those who wear the uniform."
The idea for Visions of Valor grew from the Congressional Medal of Honor convention held in Phoenix last September. It was attended by 69 Medal of Honor recipients from across the nation.