Gary Tuskegee Airman Gets Replacement Medal

Original Congressional Gold Medal was stolen from his home last year

By Alexandra Clark
|  Friday, Apr 20, 2012  |  Updated 7:43 PM CDT
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Quinn Dedicates Tuskegee Airmen Memorial Trail

Gov. Pat Quinn joined local leaders Monday to dedicate the Tuskegee Airmen Memorial Trail, which stretches from Sauk Trail Road to Wentworth Avenue on Interstate 57 in Chicago, to honor the 332nd Fighter Group?s service during World War II.
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A former Tuskegee Airman has a new medal.

Quentin Smith received a replacement Friday for the Congressional Gold Medal that was stolen last year.

"I got letters from the governor and letters from the mayor, and when a man on the streets says, 'It's not just for you, it's for the United States. It's for people,' it makes me feel very good," Smith said after the ceremony.

“It is my honor to be able to assist an American hero in replacing the medal that symbolizes the respect our nation owes him for his service and sacrifice,” said

Congressman Pete Visclosky presented Smith, 93, from Gary, Ind., with the original commemorative medal in 2007 to celebrate his service as a member of the first group of African Americans to become military pilots. That medal was stolen from Smith’s house last year during a home robbery.

Visclosky was among those in attendance for the repeat presentation at Gary City Hall.

"Dr. Smith is a jewel in our community. From his military service to his stellar career in education, he is adored and admired by family, friends, mentees, colleagues and those who have been inspired by his legacy,” said Gary Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson.

In February, Gov. Pat Quinn joined local leaders to dedicate the Tuskegee Airmen Memorial Trail honoring the 332nd Fighter Group’s service during World War II.

Formally known as the 332nd Fighter Group, the group earned more than 900 citations by the end of the war, including 150 Distinguished Flying Crosses. Having the longest bomber escort mission of World War II, the group earned eight Purple Hearts, 14 Bronze Stars and 744 Air Medals.

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