May 21, 2015

Manchin Presents America's Elite Fighter Pilots with Congressional Gold Medal

One year after Senator Manchin’s ‘American Fighter Aces Congressional Gold Medal Act’ was signed into law, pilots receive highest civilian honor for their service

Washington, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) delivered remarks at a special ceremony honoring one of America’s most decorated and distinguished military groups, the American Fighter Aces. He joined Congressional leaders, including Senator Mitch McConnell (R-KY), Senator Harry Reid (D-NV), Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) and Representative Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) to award the special group of veterans with the Congressional Gold Medal. The American Fighter Aces are pilots credited with destroying five or more confirmed enemy aircraft in aerial combat.

This ceremony comes one year after Senator Manchin’s American Fighter Aces Congressional Gold Medal Act was signed into law by President Obama. Senator Manchin first introduced the bill in 2013 to collectively award a Congressional Gold Medal to all American Fighter Aces. Two bill passed the Senate by unanimous consent and Senator Manchin proudly attended the White House for the Presidential signing of his bill into law. Senator Manchin along with Senator James Inhofe (R-OK) were the lead sponsors of the bill.

“These outstanding military pilots have bravely risked their lives again and again to defend the freedoms we enjoy every day,” Senator Manchin said. “They are among the best of the best. It is a privilege to publicly thank some of our country’s most courageous and devoted aviators for their heroic military service by celebrating the Fighter Ace tradition and awarding them with the Congressional Gold Medal. I am especially honored to join all West Virginians in recognizing a truly remarkable West Virginian native and Fighter Ace, General Chuck Yeager. His valor and bravery know no bounds.”

Of the more than 60,000 United States military fighter pilots who have taken to the skies since World War I, fewer than 1,500 have been honored as a Fighter Ace, including 15 West Virginians. Today, there are only about 77 Fighter Aces still living, including West Virginia native General Chuck Yeager.

American Fighter Aces have led distinguished careers in the military as well as in civilian professions, including in education and training, private enterprise and politics. Many have held the rank of General or Admiral and have played leadership roles in multiple war efforts, from World War I and II, Korea and Vietnam to our country’s current military missions.

To view photos from the ceremony, please click here.