Gen. Henry H. Shelton

2001, Gen. Henry H. Shelton

Just months before the end of his second term as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Shelton made his last formal appearance before The American Legion, receiving its 2001 Distinguished Service Medal.

National Commander Ray G. Smith said that to be considered for the Distinguished Service Award, "one must demonstrate outstanding service to the nation and to the programs of The American Legion. Our recipient this year is well qualified."

Sen. Orrin Hatch

2000, Sen. Orrin Hatch

An advocate for a strong national defense and a staunch protector of Old Glory, Hatch received The American Legion's Distinguished Service Medal in 2000.

Praising the Utah Republican, National Commander Alan G. Lance Sr. said Hatch believes America's national security "is best maintained by focused involvement in world affairs. This great American leader often serves as a voice employing Congress to do what is right for America. That is what he has done when it comes to protecting the American flag from physical desecration."

Zachary Fisher

1999, Zachary Fisher

Fisher passed away just three months before The American Legion honored him with the Distinguished Service Medal, for his successful efforts to help the families of hospitalized veterans. National Commander Butch L. Miller called Fisher "a truly great American ... What he accomplished in his lifetime will be forever remembered in the history books but even more so in the lives that he touched."

Sen. Robert J. Dole

1997, Sen. Robert J. Dole

Combat veteran, Legionnaire, longtime senator and presidential candidate, Dole received The American Legion's Distinguished Service Medal in 1997, with National Commander Joseph J. Frank calling him "an avid and ardent supporter of America's veterans."

Accepting the honor, Dole said, "Whether you served in World War I or II, or in Korea, or in Vietnam or Lebanon or Grenada, Panama or the Gulf, we will never forget our responsibility to those who have worn the uniform at home or abroad in service to our great nation."

Rep. G.V. "Sonny" Montgomery

1996, Rep. G.V. "Sonny" Montgomery

For his veterans advocacy and passage of the Montgomery GI Bill, which in 1984 expanded education benefits for the military beyond the provisions of the original GI Bill of 40 years earlier, Montgomery received The American Legion's Distinguished Service Medal in 1996.

Crew of the Enola Gay

1995, Crew of the Enola Gay

Fifty years after the crew of the Enola Gay dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima, hastening Japan's surrender, The American Legion honored Tibbets and his crew with the Distinguished Service Medal.

"There is no doubt in my mind that many of you who are here today would not be here if it hadn't been for the courageous mission of the men of the Enola Gay," National Commander William Detweiler told convention delegates.

Walter Annenberg

1994, Walter Annenberg

As founder of TV Guide, Annenberg made numerous public contributions, including a five-year, $500 million reform gift to education. For his work, he received the Legion's Distinguished Service Medal in 1994.

The former Navy Reserve commander accepted the honor by saluting "all the members of The American Legion who served their fellow citizens and our country in a masterful manner.

Gen. Colin Powell

1993, Gen. Colin Powell

Two tours of duty in Vietnam and four years as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff were among the accomplishments cited by The American Legion in its selection of Powell as its Distinguished Service Medal recipient in 1993.

The decorated general "served in increasingly responsible command positions throughout a distinguished military career," stated the National Executive Committee, also praising his direction of the U.S. military during the Persian Gulf War.

Richard Thornburgh

1992, Richard Thornburgh

For a career in public service and his support of veterans, Thornburgh received the Legion's Distinguished Service Medal from a fellow Pennsylvanian, National Commander Dominic DiFrancesco, in 1992.

President George H.W. Bush

1991, President George H.W. Bush

Bush accepted the Legion's Distinguished Service Medal in 1991, telling Legionnaires that the United States must remain strong in every way. "In the 21st century, America must be not only a military superpower," he told delegates, "but also an economicsuper power and an export superpower .... We didn't end the Cold War to make the world safe for trade wars. We must fight the protectionist impulse here at home and we must work with our partners for trade that is free, fair and open."