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Honoring a Hero: Aviator Receives Medal Six Decades Overdue

Retired Maj. Joe Campbell is awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross by Col. Ty Neuman, 2nd Bomb Wing commander, during an award ceremony at his residence in Shreveport, La., May 18, 2017. Campbell, a veteran of World War II, the Korean War, and Vietnam, received the award for heroism and extraordinary achievement during aerial operations in the Korean War. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Mozer O. Da Cunha)

Retired Maj. Joe Campbell is awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross by Col. Ty Neuman, 2nd Bomb Wing commander, during an award ceremony at his residence in Shreveport, La., May 18, 2017. Campbell, a veteran of World War II, the Korean War, and Vietnam, received the award for heroism and extraordinary achievement during aerial operations in the Korean War. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Mozer O. Da Cunha)

Guests applaud during retired Maj. Joe Campbell’s Distinguished Flying Cross Award Ceremony at his residence in Shreveport, La., May 18, 2017. Campbell was diagnosed with cancer 2016; with the diagnosis, family members reviewed his military records and discovered the medal was awarded but never presented. With the recent discovery, Barksdale Air Force Base leadership presented the award during a private ceremony at the Campbell residence. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Mozer O. Da Cunha)

Guests applaud during retired Maj. Joe Campbell’s Distinguished Flying Cross Award Ceremony at his residence in Shreveport, La., May 18, 2017. Campbell was diagnosed with cancer 2016; with the diagnosis, family members reviewed his military records and discovered the medal was awarded but never presented. With the recent discovery, Barksdale Air Force Base leadership presented the award during a private ceremony at the Campbell residence. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Mozer O. Da Cunha)

Retired Maj. Joe Campbell speaks to guests after receiving the Distinguished Flying Cross in Shreveport, La., May 18, 2017. Campbell is a veteran of World War II, the Korean War, and Vietnam and is also rated as both a pilot and navigator, as depicted by his wearing two distinct sets of wings. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Mozer O. Da Cunha)

Retired Maj. Joe Campbell speaks to guests after receiving the Distinguished Flying Cross in Shreveport, La., May 18, 2017. Campbell is a veteran of World War II, the Korean War, and Vietnam and is also rated as both a pilot and navigator, as depicted by his wearing two distinct sets of wings. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Mozer O. Da Cunha)

A picture of retired Maj. Joe Campbell during his service in World War II is displayed at his residence during a Distinguished Flying Cross Medal Award Ceremony in Shreveport, La., May 18, 2017. Campbell began his service during World War II and trained as a navigator at Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Mozer O. Da Cunha)

A picture of retired Maj. Joe Campbell during his service in World War II is displayed at his residence during a Distinguished Flying Cross Medal Award Ceremony in Shreveport, La., May 18, 2017. Campbell began his service during World War II and trained as a navigator at Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Mozer O. Da Cunha)

Retired Maj. Joe Campbell poses for a photo during a Distinguished Flying Cross presentation at his residence in Shreveport, La., May 18, 2017. Campbell is a veteran of World War II, the Korean War, and Vietnam and is also rated as both a pilot and navigator, as depicted here by his wearing two distinct sets of wings. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Mozer O. Da Cunha)

Retired Maj. Joe Campbell poses for a photo during a Distinguished Flying Cross presentation at his residence in Shreveport, La., May 18, 2017. Campbell is a veteran of World War II, the Korean War, and Vietnam and is also rated as both a pilot and navigator, as depicted here by his wearing two distinct sets of wings. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Mozer O. Da Cunha)

BARKSDALE AIR FORCE BASE, La. -- An elderly man entertains guests from his chair, which is surrounded by medical equipment. Moments later, a familiar shade of blue walks through his front door, causing him to rise and greet the newcomer. The newcomer picks up the elderly man’s military service coat, the same as his own and places it on its owner, who will now receive the honor he earned over 60 years ago.

Retired Maj. Joe Campbell, a B-29 Superfortress pilot, received the Distinguished Flying Cross May 18, 2017, for his support of aerial operations during the Korean War.

“We are here today to give Maj. Joe Campbell one of the most prestigious awards and decorations that an aviator in the United States Air Force and the Department of Defense can have,” said Col. Ty Neuman, 2nd Bomb Wing commander, who presented the decoration to Campbell.

Before the commencement of the ceremony, Neuman, also an aviator, exchanged stories with Campbell and complemented him on his unusual feat of being both a pilot and a navigator.

Campbell recalls the mission in which he earned the medal.

“Our mission was in support of one of the largest air combat operations in Korea, but before the operation could be launched, up-to-date intelligence was needed and that’s where we came in,” Campbell explained. “Our crew was sent out alone, over enemy territory to verify a target, and gather intelligence. We were told it was for the largest air combat operation during the Korean War.”

For those accomplishments, Campbell shortly thereafter was recommended for the Distinguished Flying Cross, but due to chaos brought by war, fire and file mismanagement, the decoration was never issued.

Campbell retired honorably from Barksdale Air Force Base, Louisiana, and stayed in the local community, settling in Shreveport with his family.

Campbell was diagnosed with terminal cancer in 2016, and was very recently placed on hospice.

“We contacted the base to make arrangements for my dad. When we reviewed the records we found out that he was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross decades ago but it was never presented to him,” Campbell’s daughter explained.

Barksdale’s senior leadership worked swiftly to arrange a ceremony to award Campbell and thank him on behalf of the men and women of Barksdale Air Force Base and the generations of bomber Airmen who have followed in his footsteps.