PACE — Retired U.S. Army Command Sgt. Maj. Robert "Bob" Patterson said he remembers nothing from May 6, 1968 when he earned the Medal of Honor, the nation’s highest personal military decoration.
Patterson tore through several North Vietnamese Army battalion bunkers that day, despite coming under intense small-arms and grenade fire. He single-handedly destroyed five enemy bunkers, killed eight enemy soldiers and captured seven weapons.
"That whole afternoon my whole mind is blank," Patterson said. "I don’t know what happened."
PHOTOS: Veterans Day ceremony at Navarre Park
Patterson was only the second Medal of Honor recipient to earn tribute at the annual Commander Sam Vickers Celebration of America held at Pace High School. Thursday marked the celebration’s 20th year.
The Pace Naval Junior Officer Training Corps manned the event that included yellow ribbons tied around the trees in the front of the high school, a replica of a World War II boat and jeep and a World War II photo album of pictures from Leon Hinote Jr.
Stephanie Jernigan, a Pace High School social studies teacher who coordinated the event, said this year was special, being the 75th anniversary of D-Day, the battle that turned the tide of World War II.
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"We would be a much different country if it was not for the men and women who served," Jernigan said.
Attending the Celebration of America event from World War II was 99-year-old retired U.S. Marine Corps veteran H.N. Eubanks.
He served from six months before World War II started in 1939 to three months after it finished in 1945. Eubanks also served at Iowa Jima.
"I saw a lot of things," said Eubanks, who was on the island for 36 days. "Anytime you were on that island you were in danger."
Theresa Hinote put together the World War II photo album for her late father, Leon. He landed on Omaha Beach during the war, and she traveled back with him to the French region of Normandy a few years ago. Hinote recalled that her father cooked for 1,500 men and refused to boil water once he left military service.
"I’m very touched and extremely grateful and proud of the men and women who went over and fought for our freedom," Hinote said.