A college student who died tackling a gunman at a North Carolina university was posthumously awarded one of the U.S.'s highest civilian honors on Wednesday, the Congressional Medal of Honor Foundation announced.
The family of Riley Howell accepted the Congressional Medal of Honor Society's Citizen Honors Award on his behalf, his parents told The Charlotte Observer Wednesday.
A live-streamed wreath-laying without attendees was held at the Arlington National Cemetery in Washington after the usual ceremony was canceled in an effort to protect against the coronavirus, the newspaper said.
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Riley Howell, 21, suffered eight gunshot wounds while taking down the suspect charged in a shooting rampage at the University of North Carolina-Charlotte in April 2019. Ellis Reed Parlier, 19, was also shot to death and four other students were wounded in the attack.
Of the six people who were honored this year, half were involved in school shootings, The Charlotte Observer reported. Those recipients included Keanon Lowe, who managed to wrestle a gun away from a student at an Oregon high school, and Christian Garcia, who was shot through a door and killed while guarding it from a gunman firing at high school in Texas.
Riley Howell's parents said they appreciate the recognition for their son, but stressed that he should never have been put in that situation.
Natalie Howell said she feels "conflicted" about the honor, telling the newspaper: "I am accepting it on behalf of all the people who have also needlessly lost their lives to gun violence."
The Medal of Honor is given to military personnel for acts of bravery and heroism in the line of duty -- in combat -- and that's essentially what my son had to do in civilian life," Thomas Howell told The Observer. "That's not fair."
Wednesday was Medal of Honor Day and because of the unique challenges of social distancing, the National Medal of Honor Museum Foundation launched the inaugural Moment of Honor which called on Americans to use technology to join in showing their gratitude to Medal of Honor recipients.
The National Medal of Honor Museum, which will soon find it's home in Arlington's Entertainment District, is expected to open to the public in 2024.