The Medal of Honor, the highest U.S. military honor for valor, has been presented to just 3,500 service members, many of them posthumously, since the Civil War. In tribute to the 82 living Medal of Honor recipients, American Airlines transported a group of these distinguished heroes aboard its yellow-ribbon 737 aircraft, “Flagship Liberty,” from New York to Washington, D.C., on March 22, where they were recognized in conjunction with National Medal of Honor Day.
Onboard the flight were 16 recipients, including Hershel “Woody” Williams, who was 21 years old when he received the Congressional Medal of Honor for his action on the island of Iwo Jima during World War II. Covered only by four riflemen, Williams fought desperately for four hours under enemy fire and repeatedly returned to his own lines and back, neutralizing one of the most fanatically defended Japanese strong points encountered by his regiment.
In 1966, Specialist Fourth Class Alfred Rascon was assigned as a medic in Vietnam when his platoon came under heavy enemy fire. Disregarding his own safety and ignoring directions to stay behind shelter until covering fire could be provided, Rascon repeatedly made his way forward to reach injured comrades and provide ammunition to others. For extraordinary valor in the face of deadly enemy fire, his heroism in rescuing the wounded, and his gallantry by repeatedly risking his own life for his fellow soldiers, Rascon was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor in February 2000.
American Airlines hosted a send-off ceremony for the veterans at LaGuardia Airport prior to their departure, and welcomed them with a celebration upon arrival at Reagan Washington National Airport. Following arrival, the group attended a private luncheon, during which American reaffirmed its commitment to all living Medal of Honor recipients via the presentation of AAdvantage Executive Platinum® status, and ConciergeKey® and Admirals Club® memberships.
While in Washington, D.C., the recipients participated in a wreath-laying ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknowns in Arlington National Cemetery, as well as receptions in their honor. As the official airline of the Congressional Medal of Honor Foundation for Medal of Honor Day, American Airlines has proudly provided transportation to recipients for the past four years.