Heroes from World War II through today gathered recently in Washington for the American Veterans Center’s annual conference, where they spoke to an audience of students, fellow veterans and active duty service members.
Among those in attendance were legends of World War II, Korea, and Vietnam, including the Doolittle Tokyo Raiders, whose attack on Japan on April 18, 1942, rallied a nation still reeling from Pearl Harbor. Also speaking were the Tuskegee Airmen, the military’s first black pilots, several recipients of the Medal of Honor, and the veterans of the Battle of Ia Drang in Vietnam made famous by the film, We Were Soldiers.
The center’s awards banquet honored those who have served from World War II through today. Receiving the 2008 Audie Murphy Award for their service in WWII were several Major League Baseball players — including Hall of Famers Bob Feller, Monte Irvin and Ralph Kiner — who put their careers on hold to join the military.
Also honored with the Raymond G. Davis Award and Joe Ronnie Hooper Award for Korea and Vietnam respectively were Lt. Gen.Julius W. Becton, Jr. and Col. Walter Joseph Marm, Jr.
The Paul Ray Smith Award, given to a service member from Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom, was given to Senior Airman Jason Cunningham and Capt. Walter Bryan Jackson. Cunningham, an Air Force para-rescueman, was mortally wounded while saving the lives of his fellow servicemen in Afghanistan. Accepting the award on his behalf was his brother-in-law, SSgt. Jared Marquis. Susan Rescorla accepted the Citizenship Award on behalf of her late husband, Rick.