Bravest of the brave: Medal of Honor recipients gather in Tampa to inspire new generation

Nearly 50 years ago, a young Army Ranger fought bravely to hold a key hilltop in Vietnam, and he received the Congressional Medal Of Honor for his heroism.

Today, at age 75, he wants to share it.

"There is a hero inside each one of you. All you have to do is the right thing, at the right time, for the right reason," said Gary Littrell.

The St. Pete Beach resident is helping lead the Medal of Honor Society's convention this week, where 46 recipients of the nation's highest military honor will encourage others to show courage in their everyday lives.

"They don't have to have a medal of honor. They don't have to serve in the military to do something great," explained Medal of Honor recipient Drew Dix, who traveled to Tampa from his home in New Mexico. 

On Monday, Dix, Littrell and others kicked off the Medal Of Honor Character Development Program, which encourages values like integrity and taking responsibility for one's self. They say it doesn't take a war to be brave.

"Courage. Do I have the courage to step in when I see a person bullying another student?" said Littrell.

Of the millions who have fought for the U.S., fewer than 4,000 Medals of Honor have been awarded since 1861 and fewer than 70 recipients are alive today.

"Someday, maybe there will never be a recipient, if we can ever eliminate the need for warfare," said Littrell. "I don't see that happening, but that's what we would all hope for."

The recipients have a full slate of events this week, including an Aaron Tippin concert at the Straz Performing Arts Center on Tuesday and a pre-game ceremony at the Tampa Bay Lightning game Wednesday night. They also plan to visit 20 schools in Hillsborough, Pinellas, and Pasco counties.