USAF veteran receives high military decoration fifty years after earning it

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BANGOR, Maine (WABI) - An Air Force veteran of the Vietnam War was presented Monday with the Distinguished Flying Cross Award, fifty years after earning it.

Major Charles McClead was presented with one of the highest U.S. military decorations for his actions in Vietnam as part of the two-man crew of a fighter plane.

"In grade school, I knew then that I wanted to be a fighter pilot."

At a ceremony in the Cole Land Transportation Museum McClead recieved his award.

"…the Distinguished Flying Cross to Capt Charles A. McClead for extraordinary achievement while participating in aerial flight 13 June 1969."

The Distinguished Flying Cross is awarded for heroism or extraordinary achievement in flight

"This honor means that I was doing the right thing that day." said McClead.

"Capt McClead struck and destroyed two gun emplacements while making repeated ordinance deliveries in a heavily defended area."

Senator Susan Collins was there to help present the award and make remarks.

"That was just one of 220 combat missions he flew during that conflict. So this is long overdue."

McClead originally received notice of the award in 1970.

"I was actually here in Bangor in the Maine Air Guard, and it was mailed to me. No presentation, just mailed me a piece of paper that said I'd earned Distinguished Flying Cross. I didn't even want to accept that award at the time because I had PTSD."

McClead was unhappy with the way the war was being handled at the time and only rediscovered the paperwork for the award recently. Despite some difficult times, McClead looks back on his service with fondness.

"I was able to fly with some of the best pilots that this country ever had."