TOLEDO (13abc Action News) - "So correct me if I'm wrong, but Myles is going to be the first youth civilian to receive the medal of honor? She said Yes, exactly. That's what you can tell people. This is historic. This is huge."
According to the Congressional Medal of Honor Society, there are five awardees selected for their acts of courage or selfless service are: Chris Mintz of Roseburg, Ore., James Vernon of Morton, Ill., Eileen Hadbavny of Charleston, S.C., Myles Eckert of Toledo, Ohio and United Through Reading based in San Diego. They will be recognized in a ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery on National Medal of Honor Day, Friday, March 25, 2016. The ceremony is sponsored by The Boeing Company.
They say the Young Hero Award recognizes Americans aged 8-18 for their leadership, courage, character, integrity and service on a local, regional, state or national level. The Community Service Hero Award recognizes a community-based organization for its exceptional impact or mission in supporting our nation’s service member community.
“We created the Citizen Honors Awards to recognize and celebrate the exceptional deeds of America’s citizen heroes,” said Thomas G. Kelley, Medal of Honor Recipient and president of the Congressional Medal of Honor Society. “Chris, James, Eileen, Myles and the people behind United Through Reading are great examples of the citizen heroes all around us. They are truly deserving of our recognition.”
That was six weeks ago. Tiffany Eckert and her two kids, Marlee and Myles have been thrust in the spotlight in an unfortunate way. Her husband Andy was the first American Soldier killed in Iraq 11 years ago. She says, "Still to this day, I love him with all that I am."
She says they were able to find the beauty in the ashes of their tragedy. This medal was created with Myles in mind, and the hope that he inspires others.
He says, "I feel like my dad would be proud." On his 11th birthday, Myles received the nation's highest honor. "It was something very simple that I did. All I had to do was, I found 20 dollars, I gave it to Frank."
Myles found a $20 bill in a Toledo restaurant parking lot a couple years ago. And he paid it forward by giving it to a soldier that was also in that restaurant,with this note.
It reads 'Dear soldier, My dad was a solder, but is in heaven now. I found this $20 in the parking lot when I got here. We like to pay it forward in my family. So this is your lucky day. Thank you for your service."
Tiffany says her son's action to give the money to the soldier was natural. "My mantra is kindness always wins, and that's what has carried me through. that's why my kids are good people."
His story went viral and now, Myle's good deed has helped raise over $2 million for charities helping military families.
Tiffany says, "Its really so surreal, its the highest award you can receive in our nation. and the end of the day, we are just normal people, that have been given an extraordinary opportunity to impact others."
They want to preserve Andy's legacy and she says this is what they have been lead to do.
"We can't physically be with him, but everything we do and what people are watching and what they see in Myles and what they see in Marlee, that's how we continue to love him. That's our love language with him because, sadly, we are separated," she explains.
The three of them were flown to Washington DC, with police escorts around the city. She says it reminded her of Andy's motorcade 11 years ago when he was buried in Arlington.
"Watching him get the medal, i was really overcome. I'm not usually a public crier, but I cried an ugly cry."
Myles has the highest honor in the nation at 11 years old, so what is next? "I want to make the honor roll, and I want to go to college and be drafted by the Detroit Pistons and go into the Basketball Hall of Fame."
This is the Eckert's third visit to the White House. They met with President George W. Bush, and Michelle Obama. Local Medal of Honor recipient, Ed Byer gave him his award in Arlington.
Expect to see more from Tiffany, Myles and Marlee Eckert and their Pay It Forward attitude. They are working on more family initiatives for military families and will be unveiling them in a couple weeks. To make a donation or for information on charities Myles and his family work with, email Tiffany at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more information about the 2016 Citizen Honors Award finalists and the Citizen Honors nomination process, visit the Congressional Medal of Honor Foundation website at: www.cmohfoundation.org.
For additional information on National Medal of Honor Day and our Nation’s Medal of Honor Recipients, visit the Congressional Medal of Honor Society website at: www.cmohs.org.