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Tampa hosts Medal of Honor Convention

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TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – When Army Specialist John Baca saw the grenade land just feet from him, he knew what he had to do. He took off his helmet, and put it over his stomach and jumped.

“It was like slow motion, falling on the grenade, and I’m on top of it and then a moment later it blows up and I’m on my back,” recalls Baca. “John Dodson, retired a colonel, he laid along side me that night, February 10, removing the burning metal.”

Baca saved eight fellow soldiers that February day in 1970. President Nixon awarded him the Medal Of Honor for his bravery. He is one of 46 Medal of Honor recipients who are in Tampa for their convention.

Robert Foley was an Army captain when he received his medal. He spent some time speaking with high school students today. Foley likes to speak about building character to the younger generation and does so by relating it to his experiences with his unit.

“I always said, my soldiers in combat, ‘what is it that makes them do what they have to do every day on the battlefield?’ You know intuitively it’s discipline and training, teamwork and leadership,” said Foley. “But I found the most compelling motivation was this idea of caring, compassion and respect.”

Robert Foley getting readied for his portrait.

There are currently 70 living Medal of Honor recipients who are still alive. At 36 years old, Captain Florent Groberg considers himself a youngster. He enjoys rubbing elbows with a number of living legends.

“It’s always a humbling experience, just the fact that you get to meet history. A lot of these folks I read about when I was in the services, and now I get an opportunity to interact with them,” said Groberg. “Pick their brains, and be a better person every day. “

The convention is taking place at the Marriott Waterside in Downtown Tampa and wraps up on Saturday. There is a 2 p.m. autograph and book signing at the hotel which is open to the public.

If you are interested, you must purchase tickets in advance at medalofhonortampa.com in order to attend.

For a full list of Medal of Honor recipients, click here.

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