Thirty-five years after his death, the government finally makes things right.
Francis Gary Powers awarded Silver Star.
The man volunteered for a dangerous mission and paid a price when he got shot down. But his return to America was less than welcoming and he was shunned by many peers as well as by the Air Force, which refused to reinstate him. Lockheed took him on as a test pilot only to terminate him quietly in 1970, supposedly under pressure from the CIA.
He died in 1977, doing the only job that he could get: flying a TV news helicopter.
Out of fuel and descending without power, witnesses say that he could have auto-rotated the helicopter down safely in a park, but that at the last moment he nosed it over and crashed into the ground to avoid coming down on a group of kids playing ball.
In 2000, on the 40th anniversary of the U-2 Incident, his family was presented his posthumously awarded Prisoner of War Medal, Distinguished Flying Cross, and National Defense Service Medal, all awards that he'd been denied while still alive. In addition, CIA Director George Tenet authorized Powers to posthumously receive the CIA's coveted Director's Medal for extreme fidelity and extraordinary courage in the line of duty. Now he has the Silver Star, which was presented to his grandchildren.
His grave in Arlington National Cemetery is a bit off the beaten path, but I found it a few years ago.
Some of us never forgot.