WASHINGTON (AP) -- Three dozen members of an elite group of U.S. fighter pilots have been presented with the Congressional Gold Medal, Congress' highest civilian award.
The American Fighter Aces earned their designation by shooting down at least five enemy aircraft in air-to-air combat during World Wars I and II, Korea and Vietnam.
House Speaker John Boehner said the daring missions flown by the Fighter Aces "changed the course of American-fought wars throughout modern history. These Fighter Aces risked it all to defend freedom and democracy around the world."
Boehner was among several congressional leaders to speak at a Capitol ceremony Wednesday honoring the pilots. Only 77 of 1,447 American Aces are still alive.
Air Force Lt. Gen. Charles "Chick" Cleveland said he and his fellow Aces "helped shorten wars and saved lives."