Gainesville hosts Medal of Honor recipients

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GAINESVILLE, TX -- Some the country's finest service members arrived in Gainesville today as the 13th annual Medal of Honor celebration gets underway.

Dozens of people turned out to show their support and await the arrival of some of the nation's top servicemen.

Twenty-one medal of honor recipients from around the country arrived in Gainesville Wednesday afternoon for the 13th annual Medal of Honor Host City Event.
Cities from around the country show their appreciation in their own way, but only Gainesville was voted the Rand McNally 'Most Patriotic' city in America in 2012.

"We are the only city in the United States of America that has a medal of honor host city program. There is no other city in the nation that does this," said Ben Willingham, vice president of Medal of Honor host city program.

Veterans from around the nation also showed up in Gainesville for a chance to meet and talk with some of the nation's best.

"The Medal of Honor itself is the highest military honor that can be awarded. It can only be awarded when an individual has done something far above and beyond the call of duty placing himself at complete risk," said Willingham.

One medal of honor recipient, Leroy Petry, has nearly 15 years of service with two tours in Iraq and six in Afghanistan. Even though he's been all over the world he says he's excited to be in Gainesville.

"This is my first trip to Gainesville. The ride over here has been amazing and the dinner hosted tonight...all the veterans, all the patriot riders...its just been phenomenal. I love spending time with them. I just want to say thank you to all of them for the service that they provided I grew up in a free country because of them," said Sergeant LeRoy Petry.

The four day event will include a tree planting, a fish fry, a book signing and a parade on Saturday.
And although hundreds come out to show their support, their message is simple.

"Its just a very relaxed time for them to come to Gainesville, to see true small town American patriotism and for us to say thank you to them," said Willingham.