Blackhawk helicopters were circling Boston Wednesday as the city hosted some of the nation’s most decorated war heroes.
The city was the site of the annual convention for recipients of the Congressional Medal of Honor, the most prominent decoration given to service men and women in the United States.
Of the 78 living recipients of the honor, 40 were in Boston Wednesday for a recognition ceremony, two of them Massachusetts residents, according to a release from Gov. Charlie Baker’s office.
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The military choppers shuttled many of the veterans to schools around the state to speak to students. A rare sight in the city, they touched down Wednesday morning on Boston Common.
The occasion marked the third time Boston has hosted the gathering, which aims to “perpetuate the legacy” of the award, according to a release. The city also hosted the convention in 2001 and 2006.
Officials honored the decorated soldiers in a State House ceremony Wednesday.
In a speech, Gov. Baker told the veterans they were always welcome in Boston.
“We will be there for you,” he said, “because you were there for us.”
Before the ceremony, a crowd gathered outside the State House to welcome the medal recipients as they stepped off a pair of MBTA buses.
“They served our country and they deserve our attention,” said Joseph Morrissey of Hopkinton. He said he came to the capitol steps after hearing the choppers from his Beacon Street office.
“I think it’s a beautiful thing that they remember the veterans,” said Charles S. of Boston, who was in the area selling newspapers when he came by the processional. “A lot of organizations forget all the veterans and what they do for our country.”
Maj. Michael Currie of the Massachusetts Army National Guard told Metro he was an escort for Navy Lt. Thomas Norris, who received the Medal of Honor for his service in Vietnam. Currie said the highlight of his day was riding with Norris on a chopper ride around Boston.
“To see the look on his face when we got up on the helicopter and we had our doors open and we got to fly around Fenway Park a couple times, he was having a good day,” Currie said. “That was a lot of fun.”
Wednesday’s events were among several planned through Sunday. The recipients were scheduled to make public appearances at an autograph session Thursday afternoon at the Seaport Boston Hotel, at a ceremony at the South Boston Vietnam Memorial on Sunday and at a Patriot Award Gala at the Seaport World Trade Center on Saturday night.
Gala awardees include Patriots owner Robert Kraft and celebrity chef Robert Irvine, as well as ABC News’ Bob Woodruff and Marine Corps Commandant Joseph F. Dunford, Jr., a Boston native.