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Only Living Native Medal of Honor Recipient Attends California Ceremony

A story about California's largest Memorial Day service, held at Green Hills Memorial Park, with Native Medal of Honor Recipient Lt. Michael Thornton attending.
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California's largest Memorial Day service, with more than 15,000 people expected to participate, is the annual Memorial Day Observance at Green Hills Memorial Park. Today's ceremony is the 28th annual and it will be held from 10 a.m. to noon Pacific Time.

Last year's keynote speaker, Lt. Michael Thornton, will return to present a special tribute to the Navy SEALS. Thornon, Cherokee, is the only living Native American Medal of Honor recipient. He served four tours in Vietnam as a Navy SEAL. The Medal of Honor is the nation's highest military decoration.

Other highlights include the release of 100 doves, a parade of colors, aerial fly-overs, and a presentation of memorial wreaths with a rifle salute.

Green Hills is at 27501 S. Western Ave., Rancho Palos Verdes, California. For more information, click here.

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Lt. Thornton's Medal of Honor citation:

A Cherokee from South Carolina and Engineman Second Class. For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty while participating in a daring operation against enemy forces in the Republic of Vietnam on October 31, 1972. Petty Officer Thornton, an assistant U.S. Navy advisor, along with a U.S. Navy lieutenant serving as senior advisor, accompanied a three-man Vietnamese Navy SEAL patrol in an operation against an enemy river base. As the patrol approached its objective on foot, it came under heavy fire from a numerically superior force. The patrol called in naval gunfire support and then engaged the enemy in a fierce firefight before moving back to the waterline to prevent encirclement. Upon learning that the senior advisor had been hit by enemy fire and was believed to be dead, Petty Officer Thornton returned through a hail of fire to the lieutenant's last position, quickly disposed of two enemy soldiers, and succeeded in removing the seriously wounded and unconscious senior naval advisor. At water’s edge, he inflated the lieutenant's life jacket and towed him seaward for approximately two hours until they were picked up by a support craft. By his extraordinary courage and perseverance, Petty Officer Thornton was directly responsible for saving the life of his superior officer and enabling the safe extraction of all patrol members, thereby upholding the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service.

For his official Navy SEALs bio, click here.

Related: American Indian Medal of Honor Recipients