By Buddy Blouin
The U.S. military is filled with awards, medals, and displays of recognition - a fitting way to pay tribute to those who sacrifice their lives so that others may live in peace. Earning any medal is admirable, as it requires some level of service, but for those who go even further above and beyond, special recognition is provided. The Distinguished Flying Cross is a prime example, and it's delivered to those who don’t just answer the call but showcase exemplary service in the air. Learn more about this prestigious award, how to earn it, and a great memorial to its existence and those who earned it.

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What Is the Distinguished Flying Cross?

The Distinguished Flying Cross is awarded to United States Armed Forces members who show exceptional heroism when engaging in aerial flight. In terms of aerial combat, the Distinguished Flying Cross is the third-highest military decoration a member of the U.S. military can earn. Created by Congress in 1926, anyone who fits the criteria and has served throughout the U.S. Air Force, U.S. Army, U.S. Coast Guard, and U.S. Marine Corps after April 6, 1917, can earn the award. As a prerequisite of qualifying for the award, it is essential that recipients of the Distinguished Flying Cross display both heroism and achievement that require operations that are not routine so that they can be considered entirely distinct. Although not listed, as the U.S. Space Force (USSF) is an evolution of the USAF, it’s likely the award is also available to the nation’s youngest branch. Astronauts and civilians have also been granted the award due to their contributions to aerospace, including Amelia Earhart and the Wright Brothers. Featuring a bronze cross, the award has rays between the arms of the cross with a propeller of four blades on the obverse. At the re-entrant angles of the cross, as well as in each arm, are rays that form a square. Its cross is centered on a shield and suspended by a rectangular-shaped bar.

Visit the DFC National Memorial

After the Distinguished Flying Cross National Memorial Act was passed, it was signed into law by President Barack Obama. From the act, the Distinguished Flying Cross Memorial at March Field Air Museum was born. Located near March Air Reserve Base in Riverside, California, the DFC National Memorial pays tribute to those within the U.S. military who have gone above and beyond to earn the Distinguished Flying Cross. There are several other memorials in the area, including the National POW/MIA Memorial, Medal of Honor Memorial Site, and War Dog Memorial, as well as other tributes to the U.S. military. Located around 66 miles east of Los Angeles, the area is a great place to pay respects and learn about military history.

Distinguished Flying Cross Recipients Throughout History

The Distinguished Flying Cross recipients list is too long to list here. There are around 1,400 men and women who have earned the award over the years. The Distinguished Flying Cross award continues to be a display of exceptional excellence and maintaining freedom through an array of conflicts since the gift of flight became a weapon of war.

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