legion of merit

Among his other merits:

Presented the Leadership Award of Phi Delta Kappa (1962); the National Defense Service Medal (1965); the Vietnam Campaign Medal (1967); the Vietnam Cross of Gallantry with Palm (1967); the Vietnam Service Medal (1967); Ten Air Force Air Medals (1967); Three Air Force Outstanding Unit Awards (1967, 1970 and 1972); the German Air Force Aviation Badge from the Federal Republic of West Germany (1969); the T-38 Instructor Pilot of the Month (1970); the Air Training Command Outstanding Flight Safety Award (1970); the Air Force Commendation Medal (1972); the Air Force Institute of Technology’s Mervin E. Gross Award (1974); Who’s Who Among Black Americans (1975 to 1977); the Air Force Meritorious Service Award (1978); the National Society of Black Engineers Distinguished National Scientist Award (1979); four NASA Group Achievement Awards (1980, 1981, 1989, and 2003); the Pennsylvania State University Alumni Association’s Distinguished Alumni Award (1983), the Alumni Fellows Award (1986); the USAF Command Pilot Astronaut Wings (1983); NASA Space Flight Medals (1983, 1985, 1991 and 1992); the Ebony Black Achievement Award (1983); NAACP Image Award (1983); the City of Philadelphia’s Philadelphia Bowl (1983); Who’s Who in America (1983 to present); the Pennsylvania Distinguished Service Medal (1984); the Defense Superior Service Medal (1984); three Defense Meritorious Service Medals (1986, 1992 and 1993); New York City Urban League’s Whitney Young Memorial Award; 1991 Black Engineer of the Year Award; NASA Exceptional Service Medal (1992); National Intelligence Medal of Achievement (1993); Federation Aeronautique International Komarov Diploma (1993); Legion of Merit (1993); NASA Distinguished Service Medal (1994); International Space Hall of Fame inductee (1997); U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame inductee (2010); Air Force Institute of Technology Distinguished Alumni Award (2002); University of Houston, Clear Lake Distinguished Alumni Award (2003); The Pennsylvania Society Gold Medal (2011) and honorary doctorate degrees from Florida A&M University, Texas Southern University, Virginia State University, Morgan State University, Stevens Institute of Technology, Tuskegee Institute, Bowie State College, Thomas Jefferson University, Chicago State University, Georgian Court College, Drexel University, Kent State University, Central State University and the University of the Sciences.

All these achievements belong to one person.

Believe in yourself!


Heidemarie Stefanyshyn (b. 1963) is a former NASA astronaut, a Naval officer, and a Captain in the US Navy. She is the daughter of a German and a Ukrainian immigrant, and holds two degrees in mechanical engineering from MIT.

As a NASA astronaut, she participated in two space shuttle missions, and was a commander of the human survival study NEEMO in the Aquarius underwater laboratory. During her military career she was awarded multiple service medals, including two Legion of Merit and two Navy Achievement medals.


Brig. Gen. Robin Olds was an American fighter pilot and general officer in the U.S. Air Force. He was a “triple ace”, with a combined total of 16 victories in World War II and the Vietnam War. He retired in 1973 as a Brigadier General. He served from 1943 until 1973.

The son of Army Maj. Gen. Robert Olds, educated at West Point, and the product of an upbringing in the early years of the U.S. Army Air Corps, Olds epitomized the youthful World War II fighter pilot. He remained in the service as it became the United States Air Force, despite often being at odds with its leadership, and was one of its pioneer jet pilots. Rising to the command of two fighter wings, Olds is regarded among aviation historians, and his peers, as the best wing commander of the Vietnam War, for both his air-fighting skills, and his reputation as a combat leader.

Olds was promoted to brigadier general after returning from Vietnam but did not hold another major command. The remainder of his career was spent in non-operational positions, as Commandant of Cadets at the United States Air Force Academy and as an official in the Air Force Inspector General’s Office. His inability to rise higher as a general officer is attributed to both his maverick views and his penchant for drinking.

Olds had a highly publicized career and life, including marriage to Hollywood actress Ella Raines. As a young man he was also recognized for his athletic prowess in both high school and college, being named an All-American as a lineman in college football. Olds expressed his philosophy regarding fighter pilots in the quote: “There are pilots and there are pilots; with the good ones, it is inborn. You can’t teach it. If you are a fighter pilot, you have to be willing to take risks.”

Awards as Command pilot.

•Air Force Cross
•Air Force Distinguished Service Medal
•Silver Star, three oak leaf clusters
•Legion of Merit
•Distinguished Flying Cross, five oak leaf clusters.
•Air Medal, with 39 oak leaf clusters.
•Air Force Commendation Medal
•Presidential Unit Citation, with oak leaf cluster •Outstanding Unit Award, with two oak leaf clusters
•American Defense Service Medal
•American Campaign Medal
•European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal with six campaign stars
•World War II Victory Medal
•National Defense Service Medal, with second service star.
•Vietnam Service Medal
•Air Force Longevity Service Award, with six oak leaf clusters
•Small Arms Expert Marksmanship Medal
•Légion d'honneur
•Distinguished Flying Cross (United Kingdom); •Croix de Guerre (France), with star
•Vietnam Air Gallantry Cross with Gold Wings •Republic of Vietnam Campaign Medal.
•Vietnam Air Force Distinguished Service Order, 2nd Class
•Vietnam Air Force Meritorious Service Medal

He was awarded a fourth Silver Star for leading a three-aircraft low-level bombing strike on March 30, 1967, and the Air Force Cross for an attack on the Paul Doumer Bridge in Hanoi on August 11, one of five awarded to Air Force pilots for that mission. He flew his final combat mission over North Vietnam on September 23, 1967.

Air Force Cross Citation
Colonel Robin Olds

U.S. Air Force
Date Of Action: August 11, 1967

“The President of the United States of America, authorized by Title 10, Section 8742, United States Code, takes pleasure in presenting the Air Force Cross to Colonel Robin Olds (AFSN: 0-26046), United States Air Force, for extraordinary heroism in military operations against an opposing armed force while serving as Strike Mission Commander in the 8th Tactical Fighter Wing, Ubon Royal Thai Air Base, Thailand, against the Paul Doumer Bridge, a major north-south transportation link on Hanoi’s Red River in North Vietnam, on 11 August 1967. On that date, Colonel Olds led his strike force of eight F-4C aircraft against a key railroad and highway bridge in North Vietnam. Despite intense, accurately directed fire, multiple surface-to-air missile attacks on his force, and continuous harassment by MiG fighters defending the target, Colonel Olds, with undaunted determination, indomitable courage, and professional skill, led his force through to help destroy this significant bridge. As a result the flow of war materials into this area was appreciably reduced. Through his extraordinary heroism, superb airmanship, and aggressiveness in the face of hostile forces, Colonel Olds reflected the highest credit upon himself and the United States Air Force.”

Brig Gen Robin Olds died on June 14, 2007. He was 84 years old.

(Courtesy of the Helen Pon Onyett Collection, New Braunfels, TX)


Helen Pon Onyett, born in August 14, 1918, served in the Army Nurse Corps after hearing about the Pearl Harbor attack. During a 1983 interview with author Judy Yung from the book Unbound Feet: A Social History of Chinese Women in San Francisco, she said that while she hated bootcamp, she found her experience in the army to be rewarding.

“‘When I spoke before audiences,’ she pointed out, 'people gawked at me, saying, 'Oh my God, she’s a colonel,’ not 'She’s Oriental.’ When the general awarded her the Meritorious Service medal, one of eight major decorations for dinstinguised military service that she would receive, she added, 'all the wives came over and said, 'It’s about time someone recognized a woman.’”

She served for more than thirty years (1942-1978) and became the first Chinese American woman promoted to Colonel in 1971. During her service she was stationed in North Africa caring for wounded soldiers and was awarded the Legion of Merit. She passed away in Connecticut on May 18, 2005.

Fighting Squadron Sixteen (VF-16) F6F Hellcat pilots on board the USS Lexington (CV 16) celebrate after shooting down 17 of 20 Japanese planes heading for Tarawa in November of 1943.
Pilots are L - R: Ens. William J. Seyfferle; Ltjg. Alfred L. Frendberg; Lcdr. Paul D. Buie; Ens. John W. Bartol; Ltjg. Dean D. Whitmore; Ltjg. Francis M. Fleming; Ltjg. Eugene R. Hanks; Ens. E.J. Rucinski; Ltjg. R.G. Johnson and Ltjg. Sven Rolfsen.
The Commanding Officer, Lieutenant Commander Paul D. Buie, would be awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for his actions at Tarawa:
“The President of the United States of America takes pleasure in presenting a Gold Star in lieu of a Second Award of the Distinguished Flying Cross to Lieutenant Commander Paul Douglas Buie (NSN: 0-72438), United States Navy, for extraordinary achievement while participating in aerial flight as Commanding Officer of Fighting Squadron SIXTEEN (VF-16) during interception of a large formation of Japanese fighter aircraft in the vicinity of Mille Island on 23 November 1943.
"He led a combat air patrol of twelve Hellcats against a force of 21 to 23 Japanese fighter planes and personally shot down two Zeros in this action. In a similar action off Mille Island on 24 November 9143, he led his twelve Hellcats in aerial combat against 15 to 20 fighters and 2 bombers and personally shot down one fighter in combat.
"His leadership, courage, and aggressiveness throughout these actions were in keeping with the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service.” Cmdr. Buie would also receive the Navy Cross, Silver Star, Legion of Merit, and 2 more Distinguished Flying Crosses by the war’s end.
The second pilot from the right, with his fist in the air, is Dick Johnson, who shot down his third Japanese plane that day and overall, would have 3 confirmed destroyed, and 1 to 4 probably destroyed planes. On December 4, 1943, he would be listed missing in action in a mission to Kwajalien (Roi-Namur). Dick’s plane is likely one of over 150 airplanes that rest in the waters surrounding the island.
The Pistol Packin’ Airedales VF-16 squadron would produce 7 aces during World War 2.


“Medics are just as courageous as a fighting man; they aren’t permitted to carry a weapon, yet when the lead’s flying, their job is to run toward the bullets, not away.”

The Band-Aid Bandits

Ed Pepping and Al Mampre met on the first day of boot camp at Camp Toccoa, Georgia. “No matter how crazy it got we always tried to keep a sense of humor, if you didn’t have a sense of humor, you were gone.” At Toccoa, they made catapults out of trees and tossed each other around to see how far a man could fly and one time a captain was set to be married and the night before the wedding, the medics anesthetized him, put his arm in a cast, and shaved off half his mustache.  They became instant friends and have stayed friends ever since. That’s more than 70 years of friendship. 

For D-Day, Pepping was originally assigned to the same plane of Lt. Meehan, but for some unknown reason he switched seat with another medic. Upon landing into Normandy Ed cracked his head on the ground, and blacked out. That same day, he made his way to a church in Angoville au Plein that was being used as an aid station and patched up as many casualties as he could. In tribute, the people from the church have never washed the bloodstains off those pews.  Outside Beaumont, when Lieutenant Colonel Billy Turner was killed, the advance of tanks stopped as Turner was at the front of the moving column. Pepping helped to pull Turner out so the tank column could move again. He received the bronze star for his action. According to military records, “Acting without regard for his own life or safety, he attempted to save the life of a battalion commander who had fallen critically wounded on top of the tank commander, not only halting the advance of the six-tank column, but making the whole column potential targets for destruction by the enemy as well. Although an agonizingly painful choice to make, Pepping’s actions allowed the tank column to advance again”

In Normandy Pepping was wounded in his leg and was not able to join the company in France, he was replaced by Ralph Spina. He then went AWOL from the hospital to rejoin Easy and he was with his unit for fifty one days. After that, Pepping was then sent to serve in general hospitals in England and in France. He later operated switchboard for trunk lines throughout France.

During the training one of the jobs for the medics was to make medical checks in the community in the Deep South; right before D-Day Mampre had an infection on his neck and missed the jump, Doc Roe took his place . Al first battle was Operation Market-Garden where another man collided with him on the jump down, Al back was badly hurt but he kept going anyway. Just before the troops reached Eindhoven, Lt. Bob Brewer was shot through the neck by a sniper and was presumed dead. Unconvinced, Al sprinted out to the field where Brewer lay, saw that he was still breathing, got some plasma out of his kit, and pumped it into Brewer’s vein although the men were still under fire. Another rifle cracked, and Al took one just above his boot line. The bullet peeled the flesh off his leg all the way down to the bone. Both the lieutenant and Al were helped to safety by some nearby Dutch civilians. Al healed up and rejoined the company in Bastogne; he remembers a joke he had with a German prisoner who spoke some English just to set the man at ease. “Hey, why don’t we change uniforms? Think about it: if I wear your German uniform they’ll send me to the States as a captive—then I’ll be home. If you wear my American uniform, we’re going to go to Germany, you know that, then you’ll be home.” The prisoner thought about it for a moment then smiled. “Ah, the hell with you,” he said. “I want to go to America. You can go to Germany.”

Ed Pepping came home in December 1945. He studied business and technology and became a draftsman for NASA’s Apollo Program, helping to send men to the moon. He married and had three children, he also received the Army’s Legion of Merit medal and is a holder of the Combat Medic and Combat Infantry Badges. Pepping felt that he let his unit down for being knocked out after 15 days in Normandy and did not keep in touch with the men of Easy Company. He only got involved again after the Emmy Awards reunion in 2002.

Al Mampre came home from the war in September 1945 with two purple hearts and a broze star, married his childhood sweetheart Virginia and studied at UCLA and the University of Chicago. He worked as a psychologist and for International Harvester in their training department. The Mampres had three children together. He retired in 1978.

Oh I was a daredevil kind of guy and I thought [paratropeers] that’s where the action would be” Mampre said.


From Wikipedia:

The 442nd Regimental Combat Team of the United States Army was a regimental size fighting unit composed almost entirely of American soldiers of Japanese descent who fought in World War II, despite the fact many of their families were subject to internment. The 442nd, beginning in 1944, fought primarily in Europe during World War II. The 442nd was a self-sufficient force, and fought with uncommon distinction in Italy, southern France, and Germany. The 442nd is considered to be the most decorated infantry regiment in the history of the United States Army. 

Here’s the list of decorations received:

  • 21 Medals of Honor
  • 52 Distinguished Service Crosses
  • 1 Distinguished Service Medal
  • 560 Silver Stars
  • 22 Legion of Merit Medals
  • 15 Soldier’s Medals
  • 4,000 Bronze Stars
  • 9,486 Purple Hearts

Here’s how they were received upon returning home:

However, the unit’s exemplary service and many decorations did not change the attitudes of the general U.S. population to people of Japanese descent after World War II. Veterans were welcomed home by signs that read “No Japs Allowed” and “No Japs Wanted”, denied service in shops and restaurants, and had their homes and property vandalized.

So. Thousands of Japanese Americans volunteered for service, some of them while in prison camps in their own country, to fight against Nazi genocide, and in doing so are awarded more honors than any other unit, ever.

And when they returned home, their reward? Hate crimes. 

Rear Admiral Dr. Grace "Amazing Grace" Hopper, PhD.

Navy Officer, Computer Engineer, Scientist, Professor, World War II Veteran.

  • Bachelor’s in Mathematics and Physics (Vassar).  Masters in Mathematics (Yale).  PhD in Mathematics from Yale. Honorary Doctor of Science, Marquette University.
  • Associate Professor at Vassar College.
  • Served as a Navy WAVE (Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service) during World War II.
  •  Graduated first in her class at the Naval Reserve Midshipmen’s School at Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts. 
  • Designed and invented supercomputer hardware and programming for the US military and private sector.
  • Invented the first compiler for computer programming language.
  • Popularized the idea of machine-independent programming languages.
  • She is credited with popularizing the term “debugging” for fixing computer glitches (inspired by an actual moth removed from a computer).
  • Military awards include the Defense Distinguished Service Medal, Legion of Merit, American Campaign Medal, World War II Victory Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Armed Forces Reserve Medal, Naval Reserve Medal.

USS Hopper, DDG-70

Grave at Arlington National Cemetery



Commander David McCampbell, USN, (1910-1996)

Rank and organization: Commander, U.S. Navy, Air Group 15.
Place and date: First and second battles of the Philippine Sea, 19 June 1944.
Entered service at: Florida. Born: 16 January 1910, Bessemer, Ala.
Other Navy awards: Navy Cross, Silver Star, Legion of Merit, Distinguished Flying Cross with 2 Gold Stars, Air Medal. 

Citation: For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty as commander, Air Group 15, during combat against enemy Japanese aerial forces in the first and second battles of the Philippine Sea. An inspiring leader, fighting boldly in the face of terrific odds, Comdr. McCampbell led his fighter planes against a force of 80 Japanese carrier-based aircraft bearing down on our fleet on 19 June 1944. Striking fiercely in valiant defense of our surface force, he personally destroyed 7 hostile planes during this single engagement in which the outnumbering attack force was utterly routed and virtually annihilated. During a major fleet engagement with the enemy on 24 October, Comdr. McCampbell, assisted by but l plane, intercepted and daringly attacked a formation of 60 hostile land-based craft approaching our forces. Fighting desperately but with superb skill against such overwhelming airpower, he shot down 9 Japanese planes and, completely disorganizing the enemy group, forced the remainder to abandon the attack before a single aircraft could reach the fleet. His great personal valor and indomitable spirit of aggression under extremely perilous combat conditions reflect the highest credit upon Comdr. McCampbell and the U.S. Naval Service.

Commander McCampbell was also the third highest scoring ace in the Navy in WWII, with 34 aerial victories and the highest scoring ace to survive the war.  He served in active duty until 1964 and the Arleigh Burke-class AEGIS guided missile destroyer, the USS McCampbell (DDG-85) was named in his honor.

According to the US Army, Captain Steve Rogers was the recipient of the following awards: Purple Heart with Clusters European-African- Middle Eastern Campaign Medal Good Conduct Medal Legion Of Merit Distinguished Service Cross Bronze Star Silver Star Congressional Medal of Honor (“Posthumous” award) Homeland Security Distinguished Service Medal Global War on Terrorism Service Medal Battle of New York Campaign Medal CIA Distinguished Service Medallion SHIELD Intelligence Cross

When the United States Marine Corps Women’s Reserve was formed in 1943, Ruth Cheney Streeter (1895-1990) became its first director. She was also the first woman to obtain the rank of major in the US Marine Corps.

She trained as a pilot, and tried unsuccessfully to join the Women Airforce Service Pilots, having been rejected five times on account of her age. While serving as the director of the USMCWR, she was promoted to colonel, and was awarded the Legion of Merit and the World War II Victory Medal.

Soldiers of the 369th Infantry Regiment (15th N.Y.); “The Harlem Hellfighters” recipients of the Legion of Merit as well as the Croix de Guerre for gallantry in action, c. 1919.

Left to right. Front row: Pvt. Ed Williams, Herbert Taylor, Pvt. Leon Fraitor, Pvt. Ralph Hawkins. Back Row: Sgt. H. D. Prinas, Sgt. Dan Strorms, Pvt. Joe Williams, Pvt. Alfred Hanley, and Cpl. T. W. Taylor.

BREAKING: Obama And Mourners Farewell Beau Biden, A Man With "A Mighty Heart"
"Beau Biden was an original," the president told mourners. "He was a good man, a man of character, a man who loved deeply and was loved in return."
By David Mack

Mourners gathered in Wilmington, Delaware, on Saturday to farewell Joseph Robinette “Beau” Biden, the late son of Vice President Joe Biden, who died May 30 from brain cancer at the age of 46.

The death of the Delaware Attorney General, Iraq War veteran, husband, and father of two had unleashed an outpouring of bipartisan grief in Washington, D.C., with top Democrats and Republicans alike expressing their sadness and condolences to the Biden family.

Among those in attendance for the funeral mass at St. Anthony of Padua Roman Catholic Church included President Obama and his family, Bill and Hillary Clinton, Delaware Governor Jack Markell, Attorney General Loretta Lynch, and Former Attorney General Eric Holder. A number of Obama administration cabinet secretaries and top Congressional leaders also made the somber trip from the nation’s capital.

As the official motorcade passed through the city on the way to the church, onlookers held signs reading “God bless the Biden Family” and “God bless Beau and Joe.”

Dressed in black, the Biden family held each other close as Beau’s flag-draped casket was unloaded from the black hearse. Wearing his trademark dark aviator sunglasses, the vice president gripped the hand of his granddaughter before putting his hand to his heart as his oldest son’s coffin was carried into the church.

“God on high, hear my prayer. In my need you have always been there,” a man’s falsetto voice echoed throughout the church to the tune of the Les Misérables song “Bring Him Home,” as the Biden family proceeded to their seats. “Bring him peace. Bring him joy. He is lost. He is only a boy.”

President Obama eulogized Beau Biden as a man with a “mighty heart.”

“Beau Biden was an original,” the president told mourners. “He was a good man, a man of character, a man who loved deeply and was loved in return.”

His voice wavering as he fought back tears, Obama offered support to his grieving vice president, calling him his “brother.”

“The world noticed,” Obama assured the Biden family of Beau’s presence and dedication. “They noticed. They felt it.”

The two most powerful men in America then hugged, as Obama kissed Biden on the cheek.

Gen. Ray Odierno, the Army Chief of Staff, paid tribute to Biden’s military service, posthumously awarding him the Legion of Merit in addition to the Bronze Star he had been recognized with while alive.

“He was committed to his community, to his home state, and to his nation —frankly, a nation I thought Beau might one day lead,” Odierno said.

“Although Beau’s life was much too short, his legacy will live on in the thousands he touched, the thousands he influenced, and the many he loved.”

Coldplay’s Chris Martin had heard through friends that his band was a favorite of Beau’s and volunteered to sing at the service.

Strumming an acoustic guitar as the church organ hummed along, Martin sang his band’s 2005 song “Til Kingdom Come:” “For you, I’d wait ‘til kingdom come, until my days, my days are done. Say you’ll come and set me free. Just say you’ll wait, you’ll wait for me.”