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Brig. Gen. Charles McGee receives Reagan Distinguished American Award

The Reagan Distinguished American Award is an honor presented to U.S. citizens who have contributed to the country in remarkable ways. Recipients of the award are those who “have demonstrated extraordinary qualities of leadership in their field of endeavor, and devotion to the values that have sustained our country since its founding.”

On October 19, the Jonathan Club awarded McGee with the prestigious honor. McGee, who learned to fly in the 1940s, in Tuskegee, Alabama, served with the Tuskegee Airmen during World War II. The veteran, who will celebrate his 102nd birthday in December, flew over 100 combat missions in the Korean War and 173 combat missions in the Vietnam War. Over the course of three wars, McGee flew over 400 flight missions, more than almost any other military pilot.

Previous recipients of the Reagan Distinguished American Award include Ronald and Nancy Reagan, Bob Hope, the Apollo 8 astronauts, Chuck Yeager, Arnold Palmer, Neil Armstrong, Billy Graham, and Gerald and Betty Ford.

Several organizations, including Dassault Aviation, manufacturer of the Falcon jet, lent their aircraft, pilot services, and fuel to ensure McGee and his family had air transportation from Maryland to Los Angeles for the formal awards ceremony.

The Illinois native was sent to Tuskegee for pilot training in the fall of 1942. Throughout his military career, he flew a wide variety of warbird aircraft, including Bell P–39 Airacobras, Republic P–47 Thunderbolts, and North American P–51 Mustangs. He flew with the 332nd fighter group, more commonly known as the Red Tails. At the end of 1944, McGee returned stateside to serve as a North American B–25 Mitchell bomber instructor at Tuskegee Army Airfield until 1946.

McGee is no stranger to praise and affirmation. The centenarian was recognized in June with the renaming of the general aviation terminal at the Charles B. Wheeler Downtown Airport in Kansas City, Missouri. In addition, McGee has also received the Distinguished Flying Cross, Bronze Star Medal, and Congressional Gold Medal.

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