From one military pilot prisoner of war to another.
Armed Services Chairman John McCain, R-Ariz., awarded a distinguished service medal to a World War II veteran, 2nd Lt. John Pedevillano, at a small ceremony Tuesday on Capitol Hill.
A string quartet serenaded a gathering of some 40 people, including Pedevillano's family and friends, in a luxuriously appointed chamber on the second floor of the Russell Senate Office building.
Pedevillano, now 93 years old, was the youngest bombardier with the 306th Bomb Group of the U.S. Army Air Corps. He flew six combat missions before being shot down over southwest Germany on April 24, 1944. He spent more than a year in a prisoner-of-war camp before being liberated by Gen. George Patton's units in 1945.
In recognition of his service, Pedevillano received a Presidential Unit Citation with one Oak Leaf Cluster from McCain, a veteran naval aviator who was famously shot down and taken as a POW by the North Vietnamese.
Gen. Larry Spencer, vice chief of staff of the U.S. Air Force, was also present to commend Pedevillano.
"Lt. Pedevillano, on behalf of the Department of Defense and the United States Air Force, thank you doesn't seem like enough, but thank you for your service," Spencer said. "We all that are in the military, we all that came behind you are standing on your shoulders. Your example of courage is what we all aspire to be. I can tell you I'm not there, but I'm trying to get there."
McCain beamed at the inspiration of Pedevillano and his fellow airmen.
"There's no doubt that my generation and this generation's young aviators are inspired by the exploits of bravery and courage of Lt. Pedevillano and all of the others of the greatest generation," McCain said.
Pedevillano smiled humbly as his kind eyes teared up with pride.
"I'm just one of millions, and I didn't expect any of this," he said, clasping a white rosary in his left hand. "I didn't do anything more than anybody else would've."
Niels Lesniewski contributed to this report
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