Living recipients of the National Medal of Honor spent the day named after the award paying tribute to others.

For the last six years on March 25, National Medal of Honor Day, the surviving medal holders honor three civilians for their own acts of courage. The ceremony, known as the Citizen Honors Awards, is held before a wreath laying at Arlington National Cemetery by the veterans.

The three recipients are chosen from roughly 20 candidates each year. Between 25 and 30 Medal of Honor holders decide each year on the final three to receive the honor. The candidates must display an exemplary act of heroism that has made a difference in the lives of others.

“This is a chance to honor Americans who have gone above and beyond in the civilian world,” Medal of Honor recipient Barney Barnum said in a statement released Tuesday by the Congressional Medal of Honor Foundation. Ordinary individuals who, in a crisis situation, do the right thing at the right time for the right reasons.”

This year’s award recipients include:

  • Michael Landsberry, a Nevada mathematics teacher who saved his students at Sparks Middle School when a 12-year-old boy opened fire in the school in October 2013. He approached the young boy once he noticed him entering with a gun and tried to talk him into handing it over. It gave his students enough time to run to safety, but the former marine was fatally shot in the process.
  • Connor Farland Stotts, an Eagle Scout in California who rescued three of his friends who were drowning in the ocean during a church barbecue in July 2011 in Oceanside.
  • Army veteran Troy Yocum, who since returning from service in Iraq in 2009 raised over a million dollars for other soldiers with PTSD and depression with a “Hike for Heroes,” where he walked nearly 8,000 miles across the U.S. to raise the money for 1,800 service families.

“It’s an absolute humbling experience,” Yocum told after the ceremony. “The Medal of Honor recipients are the definition of heroes. They risked their lives in enormous danger.

“To meet all these men and be honored as their heroes…it is truly an honor.”

Yocum, who has also started another charity called Active Heroes, designed to prevent suicide among vets, said it was a Medal of Honor recipient he met when he was five-years-old who helped to shape his life.

“I met Herschel ‘Woody’ Williams and he told me that I could accomplish anything I dedicated my life to and those are words I have tried to live by ever since,” he said.

The CMOH Foundation sponsored the event after Medal recipients decided to start the Civilian Honors program.

“They recognize three average Americans who have displayed amazing acts of valor that are similar to the values attached to the Medal of Honor,” Ronald Rand, CEO of the Foundation, said to “The ceremony brings together the concept, saying that all Americans can display the same valor and make everyday life better for those around them. It ties together the National Medal of Honor Day with acts of valor from citizens as well.”

Other recipients from last year included teachers Victoria Soto and Lauren Rousseau, who died while trying to protect their students during the Sandy Hook Elementary School tragedy in December 2012.

National Medal of Honor Day was first enacted by Congress in 1990. The date of March 25 was picked because it was the date that the very first medals were handed out in 1863. Since then 3,400 medals have been awarded with more than half given out posthumously.

Perry Chiaramonte is a reporter for Follow him on Twitter at @perrych