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Distinguished Service Medal Recipients

1972, DeWitt Wallace

Recovering in a French hospital from war injuries, Wallace had plenty of time on his hands, conceiving a host of ideas that evolved into the world-famous Reader's Digest. More than 50 years later, The American Legion awarded him the Distinguished Service Medal.

Chock full of a wide variety of articles, including stories from The American Legion Magazine, Wallace's publication became a household name, motivating people "to heighten their art of living and to improve themselves mentally, materially and spiritually," National Commander John H. Geiger said.

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1972, Sen. John C. Stennis

His support of a strong foreign policy and military preparedness earned Stennis the Legion's Distinguished Service Medal in 1972.

National Commander John H. Geiger said the senator "vigorously opposed those who would break down our defenses and weaken our liberties."

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1971, Rep. L. Mendel Rivers

For "a lifetime devoted to public service and dedicated to the complete security of our country, not only through his vigorous support of our armed forces ... but in upholding the ideals upon which our great nation was founded," National Commander Alfred P. Chamie awarded Rivers the Distinguished Service Medal posthumously in 1971.

Accepting the award on behalf of his father, L. Mendel Rivers Jr. called The American Legion the "guardian of something very precious in America, willing to stand up and proclaim that this land is all we have, and that it's worth worrying about."

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1971, Sen. Richard B. Russell

For years of supporting The American Legion, both as a Legionnaire and as chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Russell received the Distinguished Service Medal posthumously in 1971.

"His lifetime of public service was dedicated to the preservation of our American heritage, of our agricultural resources, and of the welfare of millions of schoolchildren," National Commander Alfred P. Chamie said. "His abiding concern ... was our nation's military preparedness, which has always been a major concern of The American Legion."

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1970, Rep. Olin E. Teague

As a longtime chairman of the House Veterans Affairs Committee, Teague took pride in looking out for the welfare of veterans and their families, including their educations. For his work, Legionnaires presented him with the Distinguished Service Medal in 1970.

The congressman from Texas accepted the honor from National Commander J. Milton Patrick, who said Teague had helped "bring equity and justice to the Veterans Benefits Program."

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1969, President Richard M. Nixon

For his military and elective service to his country, Nixon marked his first year in the White House by receiving The American Legion's Distinguished Service Medal in 1969.

The National Executive Committee said the president "has served our nation with dignity, honor and courage, in both military and civilian life, and in both the legislative and executive branches of government."

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1968, Gen. William C. Westmoreland

For a "distinguished career of military service and his excellent capabilities as a soldier, military educator, administrator and leader," Westmoreland received the Legion's Distinguished Service Medal in 1968.

The general had just returned to the United States to serve as Army chief of staff, following four years as vice commander and commander of the U.S. Military Assistance Command in Vietnam.

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1968, President Lyndon B. Johnson

Even as the nation was in turmoil over the Vietnam War, Johnson remained convinced that the stability of Southeast Asia and the rest of the world depended on U.S. involvement. For his leadership, he received the Legion's Distinguished Service Medal in 1968.

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1967, Tom C. Clark

Awarding Clark the Distinguished Service Medal in 1967, National Commander John Edward Davis praised the retired Supreme Court justice and Legionnaire for "traveling around the country to improve the quality of justice" at a time when the nation was in turmoil over the Vietnam War. "This veteran of World War I, despite a busy career in law, has found time to perform great public service by sponsoring such ideas as the ‘Freedom Train,' which carried across the nation an exhibit of great historical documents.

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1966, Capt. Roger H.C. Donlon

The first Medal of Honor recipient of the Vietnam War, Donlon was also the first veteran of that war to receive The American Legion's Distinguished Service Medal in 1966.

Quoting the Department of the Army citation, National Commander L. Eldon James said Donlon had "distinguished himself by conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his own life above and beyond the call of duty while defending a United States military installation against a fierce attack by hostile forces on 6 July 1964, near Nam Dong, Republic of Vietnam."

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