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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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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