30 March 2007

Congressional Gold Medal awarded to Tuskegee Airmen

The Congressional Gold Medal was presented yesterday to the Tuskegee Airmen by President Bush.

From the Desert Sun:
President Bush and congressional leaders gave the nation's top civilian award Thursday to about 300 black pilots and their crews who risked their lives in World War II for a country that treated them as second-class citizens.
Dr. Robert Higginbotham of Rancho Mirage and Rusty Burns of Palm Desert were among the Tuskegee Airmen who received the Congressional Gold Medal in the Capitol Rotunda.

"We made a sacrifice above and beyond the call of duty for a country that did not even recognize us as whole men," Higginbotham said after the ceremony.

For Higginbotham, who enlisted for military service in 1944 at age 18, the gold medal does not begin to atone for how he was treated by the country he served with valor. But he savored the recognition.

"The whole ceremony was very moving," said Higginbotham, a semi-retired medical doctor who turns 81 on Monday.

And from a column in the Albuquerque Tribune:
This isn't the State Fair parade. A Congressional Gold Medal goes to the few, the proud and, in the case of these amazing black men, the truly deserving.

A quick look at the medal system is in order. First, the Congressional Gold Medal is not to be confused with the Medal of Honor, which is given to military members only. Or the Presidential Medal of Freedom, which is given out by the commander-in-chief.

The Congressional Gold Medal, which doesn't get awarded that often, is described as "awarded to any individual who performs an outstanding deed or act of service to the security, prosperity, and national interest of the United States."

The Tuskegee Airmen participated in more than 15,000 sorties on 1,500 missions. A thousand black pilots were trained and 150 were lost in battle or training. Sounds like an outstanding deed in the interest of national interest to me.

As for the medal itself, according to the office of the Clerk of the House of Representatives:
In addition to the requirement that all Congressional Gold Medal legislation must be cosponsored by at least two-thirds (290) of the Members of the House, specific standards are set forth by Rule VII (c)(vii) of the House Committee on Banking and Financial Services's Subcommittee on Domestic and International Monetary Policy when considering such legislation. Additionally, the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee requires that at least 67 Senators must cosponsor any Congressional Gold Medal legislation before the committee will consider it.

Each medal is individually designed to reflect the recipient. Bronze replicas (full-size and miniature) of the medal are available from the US Mint.

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