Advertisement
  1. Sports
  2. /
  3. Lightning

Lightning welcome 46 Medal of Honor recipients

The Tampa Bay hosted and honored the heroes before Wednesday’s game at Amalie Arena.
Lightning center Steven Stamkos (91) and Penguins center Sidney Crosby (87) flank Corporal Hershel W. "Woody" Williams for the ceremonial puck drop as 46 Congressional Medal of Honor recipients are honored at center ice at Amalie Arena Wednesday. [DIRK SHADD  |  Tampa Bay Times]
Lightning center Steven Stamkos (91) and Penguins center Sidney Crosby (87) flank Corporal Hershel W. "Woody" Williams for the ceremonial puck drop as 46 Congressional Medal of Honor recipients are honored at center ice at Amalie Arena Wednesday. [DIRK SHADD | Tampa Bay Times]
Published Oct. 24, 2019

TAMPA — The Tampa Bay Lightning hosted 46 of the 70 living Medal of Honor recipients on Wednesday night, saluting the armed forces veterans before the game against the Pittsburgh Penguins at Amalie Arena.

The recipients, donning their medals and customized black Lightning jerseys, appeared at center ice during the national anthem. Corporal Hershel W. “Woody” Williams, a 96-year-old World War II veteran of the United States Marine Corps, participated in the ceremonial puck drop with Lightning captain Steven Stamkos and Penguins captain Sidney Crosby. Williams, the the lone World War II veteran present on Wednesday night, received the medal for his service against Japanese forces at Iwo Jima.

The 46 attendees include nine veterans from the War on Terrorism, 34 from the Vietnam War, two from the Korean War and one from World War II.

“These are the nations truest heroes from the battlefield” said Congressional Medal of Honor Foundation President and CEO Karl Horst. “The city of Tampa have been wonderful hosts.”

The Medal of Honor Society hosts an annual convention for recipients, and this year’s event is being held in the Tampa Bay area. When Lightning owner Jeff Vinik first heard from the Congressional Medal of Honor Foundation, he quickly jumped at the chance to host the armed service veterans.

“What these gentlemen have accomplished and what they’ve given to our country is unbelievable,” Vinik said. “This isn’t just the Lightning and Amalie Arena hosting these heroes here. This is the entire community who’s made them feel at home.”

Vinik, who has owned the Lightning since 2010, said Wednesday night’s pregame festivities were a highlight of his ownership tenure.

“This is my favorite moment since being an owner here,” Vinik said. “When we win the Stanley Cup, that moment will be right up with this moment.”

Gary Beikirch, a 72-year-old veteran of the Vietnam War and 1973 Medal of Honor recipient, is very familiar with the Tampa Bay community. The U.S. Army veteran has participated in two ceremonial puck drops at Lightning games, and he regularly visits schools in Hillsborough, Pinellas and Pasco counties to talk to students about his experiences.

“To be together is a chance to be reaffirmed, inspired and encouraged to keep on doing what we’re doing,” Beikirch said. “Whenever we come to a community like Tampa, the love we receive from the community just reaffirms why we did what we did."

RELATED STORY: Tampa to salute Medal of Honor recipients

Beikirch earned his medal moving “unhesitatingly through the withering enemy fire to his fallen comrades,” according to his medal citation. But Beikirch, like other medal of honor recipients, chose not to talk about heroics but about the lessons learned. After his military service, Beikirch spent 33 years as a middle school counselor.

“What I try to do is share a message that each of us were created for a purpose, we have a reason to live,” Beikirch told Jeremy Roenick during the NBC Sports Network broadcast. "If we can help somebody find that reason of why I am here, what that will do is provide motivation, inspiration — it will provide a hope for you, and all of us need a hope to go on living.”


ALSO IN THIS SECTION

  1. Tampa Bay Lightning left wing Alex Killorn (17) celebrate after he beats Arizona Coyotes goaltender Adin Hill (31) to score the first goal of the game during first period action at Amalie Arena on Thursday, Jan. 9, 2020 in Tampa. [DIRK SHADD  |  Tampa Bay Times]
    The Lightning forward has hovered just below 20 goals for years and finally reached the mark Friday.
  2. Tampa Bay Lightning center Steven Stamkos (91) leads the celebration as players contratulate right wing Nikita Kucherov (86) after he beat Los Angeles Kings goaltender Jonathan Quick (32) to tie the game 3-3 in the final moments during third period action at Amalie Arena on Tuesday, Jan. 14, 2020 in Tampa. The Lightning went on to win 4 to 3 in the shootout.  [DIRK SHADD  |  Tampa Bay Times]
    Tampa Bay went from sixth place in the Atlantic Division to second behind a 10-game win streak.
  3. Winnipeg Jets goaltender Connor Hellebuyck (37) gets beaten by a shot from Tampa Bay Lightning's Nikita Kucherov (86) as Lightning's Steven Stamkos (91) looks on during first-period NHL hockey game action in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Friday, Jan. 17, 2020. [JOHN WOODS  |  AP]
    Tampa Bay pours on the goals with seven total, including two from Nikita Kucherov.
  4. Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman Luke Schenn (2) celebrates his goal, the first of the game, along with right wing Nikita Kucherov (86), defenseman Mikhail Sergachev (98) and center Tyler Johnson (9) beating New York Rangers goaltender Alexandar Georgiev (40) during first period action at Amalie Arena on Thursday, Nov. 14, 2019 in Tampa. [DIRK SHADD  |  Tampa Bay Times]
    Tampa Bay also reassigned Alex Volkov to AHL Syracuse as Pat Maroon returned to the lineup.
  5. Minnesota Wild's Zach Parise (11) tries to control the puck the puck against Tampa Bay Lightning's Jan Rutta (44) during the first period of an NHL hockey game Thursday, Jan. 16, 2020, in St. Paul, Minn. [HANNAH FOSLIEN  |  AP]
    Tampa Bay falls off a recent trend of strong defense and lets Minnesota dictate the game.
  6. Tampa Bay Lightning head coach Jon Cooper watches from the bench as his team plays against the Minnesota Wild during the second period of an NHL hockey game Thursday, Jan. 16, 2020, in St. Paul, Minn. [HANNAH FOSLIEN  |  AP]
    Even if the play is erased by an earlier offsides, the penalty still must be served.
  7. Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman Ryan McDonagh (27) in the tunnel before heading out to the ice for warms ups before taking on the New York Rangers at Amalie Arena on Thursday, Nov. 14, 2019 in Tampa.  [DIRK SHADD  |  Tampa Bay Times]
    Playing in Minnesota is special for McDonagh, who grew up 12 miles from St. Paul’s Xcel Energy Center.
  8. Canada's Geneviève Lacasse (31) blocks a shot by United States' Kendall Coyne Schofield (26) during the third period of a rivalry series women's hockey game in Hartford, Conn., Saturday, Dec. 14, 2019. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer) [MICHAEL DWYER  |  AP]
    Teams representing the United States and Canada will play a 3-on-3 scrimmage as part of the festivities in St. Louis next week.
  9. TAMPA, FL - JANUARY 14: (Editor's Note: Image was digitally altered)  The Tampa Bay Lightning host the Los Angeles Kings fathers, brothers and mentors during the Kings' annual team trip at Amalie Arena on January 14, 2020 in Tampa. (Photo by Casey Brooke Lawson/NHLI via Getty Images) [CASEY BROOKE LAWSON  |  NHLI via Getty Images]
    The Kings are the latest team to bring their annual trip to Tampa. The Capitals and Senators have also done so this year.
  10. Tampa Bay Lightning right wing Alexander Volkov (92) before Tuesday's game against the Los Angeles Kings. [CHRIS O'MEARA  |  AP]
    Also, Kings’ Jonathan Quick takes a Steven Stamkos one-timer up high.
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement