Retired Air Force Lt. Col. Richard Cole, one of four surviving Doolittle Raiders, stood behind President Barack Obama in the Oval Office on Friday as the President signed H.R. 1209 into law. The bill awards World War II members of the Doolittle Raiders the Congressional Gold Medal, the highest honor Congress can bestow. Obama also signed legislation Friday that awarded the Congressional Gold Medal to the collective group of American fighter Aces, reported CBS News. Also last week, Rep. Niki Tsongas (D-Mass.) introduced a new bill that would award the Congressional Gold Medal to the Air Force Escape and Evasion Society. Tsongas’ legislation highlights “the heroic efforts of American aircrew members who escaped captivity and evaded capture by enemy forces in occupied countries during foreign wars,” states a May 21 release. AFEES has more than 600 members, including downed airmen and those who aided in their escape and evasion. The award remembers “their sacrifice and service, and honors the thousands of brave, ordinary people in the occupied countries who took extraordinary risks at huge costs to help these aircrew members.” Airmen who evaded and escaped capture during foreign wars founded the organization in 1964.
The U.S. supports “a stronger and more capable” European defense, Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III said during an Oct. 22 press conference in Brussels—but that defense should not duplicate the functions and capabilities of the NATO alliance.