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Distinguished Service Medal Recipients

1981, American Space Shuttle Astronauts John Young and Robert Crippen

Recognizing the first crew of the space shuttle Columbia, the Legion presented its Distinguished Service Medal to Young and Crippen in 1981.

Though they could not attend the Legion's national convention because they were busy preparing Columbia's second crew for an October mission, fellow astronaut Karol J. Bobko told Legionnaires, "I believe these times of voyage into the space of our solar system will be viewed by future generations in the same way as we today view the voyages of the European explorers of the 16th and 17th centuries."

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1980, Dead and Missing of the Vietnam War

In 1980, The American Legion awarded its Distinguished Service Medal to the dead and missing of the Vietnam War. Numbering more than 58,000, these Americans were honored posthumously with the medal, just as the unknown servicemembers of World War I, World War II and the Korean War were honored by the Legion in 1958.

Following a presidential commemoration of Vietnam casualties at Arlington National Cemetery, the National Executive Committee resolved that The American Legion would not forget those who died or remain missing in Vietnam.

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1980, President Gerald R. Ford

A World War II Navy veteran and the nation's only non-elected vice president and president, Ford received the Legion's Distinguished Service Medal in 1980.

Following Spiro Agnew's resignation in 1973, Ford was appointed vice president. He served just 10 months before President Nixon resigned, and he became the 38th president, leading the nation through the troubled post-Watergate years. Upon taking office, Ford told the nation, "I assume the presidency under extraordinary circumstances ... This is an hour of history that troubles our minds and hurts our hearts."

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1979, Thomas A. Murphy

For his contributions to the U.S. economy and his support of veterans, Murphy received the Legion's Distinguished Service Medal in 1979.

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1978, Bowie K. Kuhn

For his dedication to the great American pastime and his support for American Legion Baseball, Major League Baseball Commissioner Bowie K. Kuhn received the Distinguished Service Medal in 1978.

Presenting the honor, National Commander Robert C. Smith said Kuhn's recognition of American Legion Baseball and its contributions to the sport "span his career as a representative of the National League and his term as commissioner."

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1977, Dr. Howard A. Rusk

In 1977, Rusk received the Legion's Distinguished Service Medal for pioneering rehabilitative medicine as wounded World War II veterans returned home with physical challenges.

National Commander William Rogers praised the doctor for crusading "to alleviate the suffering of the handicapped throughout the world." Rusk headed the internationally known Institute of Rehabilitation Medicine of New York University Medical Center, served as been president and chairman of the board of the American-Korean Foundation since 1953, and was a member of the Legion's Medical Advisory Board.

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1976, Pat O'Brien

For providing quality family entertainment and serving his country during World War I, O'Brien received the Legion's Distinguished Service Medal in 1976.

Accustomed to the spotlight, O'Brien, a Navy veteran, was nevertheless humble when accepting the award. "The pride in all of our hearts as Legionnaires is something that is beyond description in words," he said. "I have been a Legionnaire since 1927. That's practically 50 years."

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1975, Harry W. Colmery

Considered the principal architect of the GI Bill, Colmery was the first past national commander to earn the Legion's Distinguished Service Medal in 1975.

"No one deserves it more," National Commander James M. Wagonseller said. "All veterans of World War II owe him a debt of gratitude."

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1974, Henry A. Kissinger

A year after he received the Nobel Peace Prize, Kissinger received The American Legion's Distinguished Service Medal.

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1974, Rep. F. Edward Hebert

The American Legion presented Hebert, chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, with the Distinguished Service Medal in 1974.

National Commander Robert Edward Lee Eaton praised Hebert for waging a "courageous campaign against elements of corruption within his home state" as a New Orleans Times-Picayune journalist. And as a member of Congress, "he has tried constantly for the elements of strength to the nation's defense and actively supported needed improvement in the veterans benefit programs," Eaton said.

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