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Commander, Naval Air Force Atlantic

AIRLANT Renames Conference Room for Medal of Honor Recipient

by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Tatyana Freeman
31 August 2023 Dec. 4, 1950, against direct orders, Lt. j.g. Thomas J. Hudner Jr. intentionally crash-landed his own aircraft on the side of a cold, North Korean mountain after watching his squadron mate, Ensign Jesse L. Brown, get shot down by anti-aircraft fire and crash on the side of that same mountain. Under the threat of enemy action and sub-zero temperatures, Hudner, and eventually a rescue pilot, 1st Lt. Charlie Ward, tried relentlessly to rescue Brown, even after he succumbed to his injuries. For his tireless efforts to rescue Brown, Hudner was awarded the Medal of Honor on April 13, 1951. He went on to achieve the rank of Capt. and serve 27 years in the U.S. Navy before he retired.

Inside the Thomas Hudner Conference Room
SLIDESHOW | 4 images | AIRLANT Conference Room Renamed NORFOLK, Va. (Aug. 30, 2023)- A look inside the Thomas Hudner Conference Room at Naval Air Force Atlantic. The conference room was renamed during a ceremony earlier this month. (U.S. Navy photo by Chief Mass Communication Specialist Brian M. Brooks)
Earlier this month, Naval Air Force Atlantic (AIRLANT) held a renaming ceremony and renamed the command’s conference room to the “Thomas Hudner Conference Room” to recognize the decorated naval aviator.

“Capt. Thomas Hudner exemplified the courage and strength of character that every naval aviator and Sailor strives to have,” said Rear Adm. John Meier, the former AIRLANT commander, and a naval aviator himself, during the ceremony before his retirement from naval service. “Renaming this conference room not only honors him and his heroic actions, but impresses upon the people entering it the importance and necessity of having that same courage and strength of character.”

Aug. 31 marks what would have been Hudner’s 99th birthday as he passed away on Nov. 13, 2017.

“As the new commander at AIRLANT, I take pride in hosting meetings in this space because it’s a constant reminder of the naval aviators who have come before us and have demonstrated notable heroism,” said Rear Adm. Doug Verissimo, Meier’s successor at AIRLANT. “We truly do stand on the shoulders of giants like Capt. Hudner.”

The conference room features a plaque with information about Hudner’s Medal of Honor, including the official citation and photos of the ceremony, photos of Hudner throughout his career, photos of Brown, and paintings of the aircraft Hudner was flying during his rescue attempt.

“When designing static displays and memorial pieces, my team does extensive research on the honoree,” said Richard “Spike” Pittman, the director of AIRLANT’s visual information services. “We were grateful for the opportunity to put together a grouping of items that respectfully honored both Ensign Brown and Capt. Hudner.”

AIRLANT features more than just a naval aviation tie to Hudner. Capt. Kevin Zayac, AIRLANT’s operations officer, was promoted to Lt. Cmdr. by Hudner in June of 2007.

“Capt. Hudner was an incredible Officer and Aviator, and it was an honor to have him participate in my promotion ceremony,” said Zayac. “To see his legacy being honored in this way is a true testament to his service and dedication.”

After retiring from the Navy, Hudner became extremely active in the veteran community and went on to serve as the commissioner of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts Department of Veterans Services. The Navy further honored Hudner with the naming of a ship- USS Thomas Hudner (DDG 116). Its motto is apt for its namesake: “Above all Others”.

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