After 50 Years, Vietnam Veteran Receives Distinguished Flying Cross

Story Number: NNS180731-02Release Date: 7/31/2018 10:50:00 AM
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By By: Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Mason Gillan

MILLINGTON, Tenn. (NNS) -- After 50 years of waiting, Ret. Lt. Col. John Jennings received the Distinguished Flying Cross July 27 for his actions back in 1966.

The award was presented at Naval Support Activity Mid-South's Marine detachment, where Capt. Caleb Miller and his company stood proudly to honor their fellow Marine.

The Distinguished Flying Cross is a military decoration awarded to any officer or enlisted member of the United States Armed Forces who distinguishes himself or herself in support of operations by "heroism or extraordinary achievement while participating in an aerial flight, subsequent to November 11, 1918

"We were scheduled to attack a particular position," Jennings said. "But weather had come in and they now directed us to another target, significantly farther away that was a heavily defended pass on the Ho Chi Minh trail."

Jennings was flying an A-4E Skyhawk over Laos when the plane experienced heavy anti-air fire. Jennings would eventually lose visual and radio contact, but without hesitation or concern for his safety he attacked back, releasing weapons directly on target and destroying enemy emplacements.

It was a bittersweet moment, as one of his fellow pilots was killed.

"They never found the aircraft or the pilot," said Jennings.

After more than five decades, Jennings is finally being honored for his bravery on that day. Jennings said the original award somehow got lost throughout the years and wasn't regenerated until about a year ago. The long-awaited moment was made extra special by his friend, retired Marine Corps Col. Haywood Smith, who presented the award.

"Jack deserves it," said Smith. "He was an outstanding pilot and he's a great friend, and I'm proud to be able to award him this myself."

Other recipients include: Rear Admiral Alan Shepard, USN: One of the original seven American astronauts, first American in space in Freedom 7, commanded Apollo 14, and Colonel Buzz Aldrin, USAF: Lunar Module pilot for Apollo 11, second man to walk on the Moon, and former president George H. W. Bush.

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