WASHINGTON (NNS) -- The Navy Museum on the historic Washington Navy Yard received a new addition to its incredible collection of art during an evening ceremony June 24.
Sculptor and retired master chief Larry Nowell presented a wood-carved bust of Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham of California to the Navy Museum, during a ceremony attended by friends, family, government and military officials.
Now a professional wood carver, Nowell created the bust of Cunningham "to give something back to the Navy," and honor the Navy's many veterans of the Vietnam War.
Completed in just under a year, Nowell said this is his largest and finest bust.
"(Cunningham) should be forever remembered...this is really a fantastic tribute to Duke, who is one of our great heroes," said Rep. Jerry Louis of California. While serving aboard USS Constellation (CVA 64) during the Vietnam War, Cunningham became the first Navy ace during the Vietnam War, downing five enemy aircraft.
His first kills occurred Jan. 19, 1972, and May 8, 1972. Two days later, he shot down three MiGs in one of the wildest dogfights of the entire war. The Navy awarded Cunningham and his naval flight officer, William Driscoll, with the Navy Cross, America's second highest award for gallantry for their efforts during the war.
Cunningham and Driscoll were the first and only naval aviators to earn the coveted title of ace during the Vietnam War.
During the same period, Nowell served as an air intercept controller (AIC) on the guided-missile cruiser USS Chicago (CG 11). Nowell assisted in 12 MiG kills, which was a quarter of all MiG kills made by U.S. services in that year. The Navy later awarded Nowell the Distinguished Service Medal.
He was only the second enlisted person in the history of the Navy to receive this decoration. Later, Nowell, along with Cunningham, served as instructors at the famous "Top Gun" school.
"It is nice to have someone else recognize the achievement that you have accomplished, and it is significant because the achievement is not mine alone," Cunningham said. "This represents the efforts of all of those guys on the Constellation. I also hope that it in some way honors the young armed servicemembers who today are sacrificing so much for their country."
The bust of Cunningham is now on display at the Navy Museum.
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