In these Olympic weeks of awarding medals to athletic champions, I recently had the distinct privlege of meeting a true hero, Ridgefield resident Paul Bucha. He is one of only 81 living recipients of the Medal of Honor. The Medal of Honor is the highest award for valor in action against an enemy force which can be bestowed upon an individual serving in the US Armed Services, and is generally presented to its recipient by the US President in the name of Congress. Capt Bucha received the award in 1970 for conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty. Capt. Bucha distinguished himself while serving as commanding officer, Company D, on a reconnaissance-in-force mission against enemy forces near Phuoc Vinh, Vietnam in 1968. The actions of all recipients of this award exemplify the key values of courage, sacrifice, patriotism, citizenship, integrity, and commitment.
It was an honor to meet Capt. Bucha and learn about the Medal of Honor and these character values that the award recognizes in the recipients. Capt. Bucha spoke about the importance of not judging others too quickly and his profound notion that within each and every person lies the potential to challenge one's own destiny and change the world. He believes that the Medal Of Honor recipients are "ordinary people who, one time in their lives, faced circumstances when they decided that destiny, as they understood it to be, was unacceptable. They found within themselves the potential to literally change fate. This same potential resides in every American and it is worthy of respect and celebration without the need of a medal or a uniform."
The New Canaan Community Foundation manages an existing scholarship award fund, established by a local resident Susan Boston, to honor another Medal of Honor recipient, Jack Jacobs, who inspired her. The award is given annually to a graduating senior from New Canaan High School, and the student receives a copy of the Medal of Honor book signed by Mr. Jacobs in addition to a monetary prize. This award is a terrific example of taking a philanthropic inspiration and turning it into a reality that touches the lives of others, sharing that passion and enthusiasm. The Foundation is uniquely positioned to work with all residents to help them achieve their philanthropic dreams.