Allied War Leaders

Just two years after the birth of The American Legion, its founders saw fit to award a Distinguished Service Medal as tribute to those who made great contributions to veterans. The first award, presented in 1921 at the Legion's national convention, could not be limited to one individual. Instead, five were presented to recognize the importance of Allied forces in the victorious battles of
World War I.

United in Kansas City, Mo., the chosen site for the National World War I Museum at the Liberty Memorial, Legionnaires resolved: "... in recognition of the respect, admiration and affection which The American Legion has for the distinguished guests now honoring us, and as a mark of our esteem and gratification at the honor thus paid us by attending our National Convention, The American Legion, in convention assembled, hereby authorizes Marshal Ferdinand Foch (of France), Admiral Sir David Beatty (of Great Britain), Lieutenant General Baron Jacques (of Belgium), General Armando Diaz (of Italy) and M. Charles Bertrand (of France, president of the Inter-Allied Veterans Association) to wear the official badge of The American Legion. Photos courtesy of the Library of Congress and the American Legion Library.

First Liberty Institute

2023, First Liberty Institute

At the 104th National Convention in Charlotte, N.C., First Liberty Institute was honored. The organization has proven that it can fight and win for religious freedom through multiple landmark Supreme Court cases – some with American Legion amicus briefs – and has set historic legal precedents that protect people of all faiths.

Hon. David P. Roe, M.D.

2022, Hon. David P. Roe, M.D.

Roe, who received the Legion's highest honor at the 103rd National Convention in Milwaukee, joined the U.S. Army Medical Corps after graduating from medical school, and served in South Korea in the early 1970s. He then went into practice in Johnson City, Tenn., retiring after 31 years and 5,000 babies delivered. He was elected to Congress from Tennessee’s 1st District, where he was a champion for veterans by being instrumental in the passage of landmark legislation impacting millions, including the “Forever GI Bill” and the MISSION Act. He retired at the end of 2020.

Diane Carlson Evans

2021, Diane Carlson Evans

Vietnam War combat nurse, Vietnam Women’s Memorial Foundation founder and Legionnaire Diane Carlson Evans received the Distinguished Service Medal at the 102nd American Legion National Convention in Phoenix in August, for her decades of veteran advocacy. Carlson Evans was also a member of the Legion's national 100th Anniversary Observance Committee.

2020, No Award Given

With the 2020 national convention canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, no award was given this year.

Sen. John McCain

2019, Sen. John McCain

The Arizona senator, who spent five-and-a-half years as a prisoner in the Vietnam War before launching a long and distinguished political career that included two presidential candidacies and one Republican nomination, was posthumously awarded the Distinguished Service Medal at the 101st American Legion National Convention in Indianapolis. He was a 38-year member of American Legion Post 2 in Tempe. Accepting the award for the McCain family was Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine, a personal friend of McCain's.

Elizabeth Dole

2018, Elizabeth Dole

Elizabeth Dole launched her public service career in 1960 working on the Kennedy-Johnson presidential campaign, and served in several administrations – up to and including the cabinet secretaryships of Transportation and Labor (under different presidents).
Dole also served as president of the American Red Cross during the 1990s, and U.S. senator from her native North Carolina in the 2000s. In between, she assisted in her husband Bob’s presidential campaign.

Dr. Apostolos P. Georgopoulos

2017, Dr. Apostolos P. Georgopoulos

Georgopoulos – director of the Brain Sciences Center in the Minneapolis Department of Veterans Affairs Health Care System, and The American Legion Family-University of Minnesota Brain Sciences Chair – has conducted decades of research into Gulf War Illness and traumatic brain injuries among veterans. The American Legion Department of Minnesota raised $1 million in the late 1980s to fund the Brain Sciences Chair at the University of Minnesota. Georgopoulos came to the university in 1991.
The award was given during the Legion's national convention in Reno, Nev.

U.S. Army 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment

2016, U.S. Army 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment

The U.S. Army’s 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment, more popularly known as The Old Guard, received the Distinguished Service Medal during the 98th National Convention in Cincinnati.

Chuck Hagel

2015, Chuck Hagel

The former Secretary of Defense – the only Vietnam War veteran, and the first enlisted combat veteran, to serve in that office – was awarded The American Legion’s highest honor at the 97th National Convention in Baltimore by National Commander Mike Helm.

Dr. Donald H. Jenkins

2014, Dr. Donald H. Jenkins

A former U.S. Air Force trauma surgeon who pioneered innovative ways to stop battlefield bleeding was presented the Distinguished Service Medal at the 96th National Convention.
Dr. Donald H. Jenkins, a retired colonel, is currently director of the trauma center at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn.