For one Hill staffer, Wednesday’s ceremony to honor the American Fighter Aces with the Congressional Gold Medal had special significance.
Billy Benjamin, the director of IT for Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, is the grandson of Ace Carl Rieman. “Well, I recently came to learn that one of Carl’s grandsons works for me. His name is Billy Benjamin. Billy is in charge of our technology — when I can’t get my iPhone to work, he gets the call. He’s a good guy … big Washington Redskins fan, but we can forgive him for that,” Boehner said at the ceremony,” after recounting the late Rieman’s exploits in the Pacific theater.
“It’s through Billy’s perspective that we can understand why this medal is so important,” Boehner added.
Benjamin was not the only person on the Hill with a deeply personal connection to the ceremony. Rep. Sam Johnson, R-Texas, a pilot himself, although not an Ace, recalled a friend who fought alongside him in Korea and Vietnam.
The medal honors the collective American Fighter Aces , pilots who downed five or more enemy aircraft in combat. Out of the 1,447 pilots to ever earn the title , fewer than 80 are still alive. The youngest ace is 74 years old, and the oldest is 104. Even given their age, 35 aces attended the ceremony.
Doug King, president and CEO of the Museum of Flight in Seattle, accepted the medal on behalf of the aces. The Museum of Flight is the home of the American Fighter Aces Association, and organized a volunteer airlift to bring aces to Washington, D.C.
People around the country celebrated the the Aces’ achievements. According to the Museum of Flight’s PR manager, Ted Huetter, about 100 people gathered at the Museum of Flight to watch the event.
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