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.

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.

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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.

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2013, Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders

The NFL dance troupe received the Distinguished Service Medal at the 95th National Convention in Houston. National Commander James E. Koutz praised the Cheerleaders’ dedication to community service and support for the U.S. military.

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2012, Sen. Richard Lugar

The Republican lawmaker and party leader on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee was presented with the award at the 94th National Convention in Indianapolis - the capital of his home state - close to the end of his 36-year Senate career. Lugar was honored for his long and heralded service to veterans and national security, as well as his commitment to bipartisanship.

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2011, Chet Edwards

Former U.S. Democratic Rep. Chet Edwards was honored with the Distinguished Service Medal at the 93rd National Convention in Minneapolis for his unflagging support of Legion principles during his time in office.

National Commander Jimmie Foster, in presenting the award, lauded Edwards as "a true champion for veterans and American Legion issues ... although his district was in Waco, Texas, his legislative record benefited veterans everywhere.

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2010, Boy Scouts of America

Boy Scouts of America, the first national youth activity officially recognized by The American Legion, received the Distinguished Service Medal at the 92nd National Convention in Milwaukee.

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2009, Gen. David Petraeus

For his leadership as commander of Multi-National Force Iraq in 2007 and 2008, Petraeus received the Legion's Distinguished Service Medal in 2009.

Presenting the award, National Commander David K. Rehbein praised Petraeus for the success of the "surge" strategy. "He would be the first to tell you that the credit for the success in Iraq belongs to those who served and those who are still serving there," he told Legionnaires.

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2008, President George W. Bush

For combating terrorism and resolving to keep America strong in the face of global threats, the nation's 43rd commander in chief received The American Legion's Distinguished Service Medal in 2008.

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2007, Dr. Kenneth W. Kizer

In 2007, The American Legion awarded Kizer the Distinguished Service Medal, recognizing him as the chief architect and driving force behind the radical transformation of VA health care between 1994 and 1999.

A former Navy diver and member of Post 38 in Rockland, Calif., Kizer "truly understands the concept of veterans helping veterans," National Commander Paul Morin said.

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2006, Maj. Gen. Patrick H. Brady

For his vision and leadership in the Citizens Flag Alliance's campaign to return to the American people the right to protect their flag, Brady received the Legion's Distinguished Service Medal in 2006.

"Our nation is secure from any external threat," Brady told convention delegates. "The true threat is internal. And it comes from an elite of counterfeit patriots who ... were raised on a different playing field than we were. They never saw a battlefield. They will never sacrifice life or limb for America. In fact, they don't believe in sacrifice."

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