Medal of Honor Foundation seeking civilian heroes

A national foundation is scouring the country looking for citizen heroes for membership in an elite club — and Brooklyn is being asked to nominate its best and brightest.

But time is running out to find ordinary Americans who become “extraordinary through their indomitable courage and selflessness.”

The Congressional Medal of Honor Foundation will only be accepting nominations for the Citizen Service Above Self Honors, one of the nation’s highest civilian accolades, until Feb. 12. The awards are presented by members of the Congressional Medal of Honor Society, the highest award that can be given to a member of the military.

“Civilian heroes contribute to our way of life, and they are often unheralded,” said Jack Jacobs, a Medal of Honor recipient who is helping to promote the awards.“We think it’s important to recognize themso they are models for other Americans.”

Brooklyn-born Jacobs, 64, now an MSNBC commentator, is a retired United States Army colonel who was awarded a Medal of Honor in 1969 for exceptional heroism in Vietnam. “We don’t wear the medal for ourselves, we wear it for people who cant — for people who performed heroically and no one was around to see it.” The civilian honors hope to cast a light on those, like their military counterparts, who toil in anonymity not for the hope of recognition, but simply because it is the right thing to do, Jacobs said.

He said nominees might be “instantaneous heroes,” or a product of long term dedication to a particular cause or issue. “There are plenty of instances where people, at the drop of a dime, save someone from a burning building. But there are also those who dedicate themselves over a long period of time to community service,” he said.

The Citizen Service Above Self Honors will be presented on March 25, National Medal of Honor Day, near the Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia. Recipients will be announced March 22.

According to the foundation, any United States civilian who through a singular act of extraordinary heroism or through a prolonged series of acts, clearly demonstrated a willingness to place his or her own life at risk for others, is eligible for nomination.

In all cases the actions being honored must epitomize the concept of “service above self” and must be performed “above and beyond” one’s professional or vocational area of responsibility or conduct, according to the foundation, a non-profit group whose mission is to promote the legacy of the Medal of Honor Society.

A singular act of heroism must have occurred within the last three years. A series of acts of long-term selfless service must have been ongoing within the last three years. Nominees who are deceased are fully eligible.

Jacobs, who was born in Crown Heights but moved to Queens when he was six, said the borough of his birth still made a lasting impression on him. “I probably learned a great deal from Brooklyn: that sense of community, friendship — and standing up for your pals.”

To submit an eligible nominee, complete the nomination form online via the Citizen Service Above Self Honors Web site, www.CitizenServiceAboveSelfHonors.org. The nomination endsFriday, February 12, 2010. For more information visit the Citizen Service Above Self Honors Web site.