Miramar National Cemetery

Distinguished Flying Cross Society Unveil Memorial at Miramar National Cemetery

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It’s a group filled with names like President George H.W. Bush, Senator John McCain and the first awardee Captain Charles Lindbergh.

Living members of this group, who have all been awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross, gathered for a special ceremony at the Miramar National Cemetery on Saturday.

At a place typically filled with solemn ceremonies, recipients of the highest aviation award presented to those in any military branch as well as a handful of high achieving civilians gathered for a celebration.

They dedicated a new monument now sitting in the “Memorial Walk” -- a lasting tribute to all who have received the nation’s highest award for “heroism or extraordinary achievement while participating in aerial flight,” according to the Air Force.

Retired Lt. Colonel Gene Alfaro and Navy Commander Chuck Sweeney below were two of the many DFC recipients in the crowd Saturday.

DFC Society NBC 7
Retired Lt. Colonel Gene Alfaro (left) and Navy Commander Chuck Sweeney (right)

Alfaro, who served 31 years in the U.S. Air Force, received his cross after a reconnaissance mission over the Ho Chi Minh Trail in Vietnam.

“We did a good job that night,” said Alfaro, President of the San Diego Lindbergh Chapter of the Distinguished Flying Cross Society. "This particular one was almost like a flash. A lot of stuff was happening and then it was over.”

Sweeney, now the national president of the Distinguished Flying Cross Society, also served in Vietnam for the U.S. Navy.

“I was awarded three of them in one week,” Sweeney told NBC 7.

The pilot of an A-4 Skyhawk, Sweeney had a legendary week in 1972 while leading three daring missions including the successful search and rescue of a squadron mate who had been shot down over enemy territory.

When asked if they remembered what those respective military days felt like, Sweeney said, “Oh yes, even right today. When I talk about it, I’m almost flying again.”

“I felt excited,” Alfaro said. “In the middle of it, because we were working fighters to drop ordnance onto the trucks.”

It is not quite known just how many people have ever received the Distinguished Flying Cross, but the DFC local chapter in San Diego is one of the largest.

Saturday’s event marked the first DFC memorial ever placed at a national cemetery, a proud moment for the heroes who have made America proud with their bravery in the sky.

The Distinguished Flying Cross Society is headquartered in San Diego and has about 7,000 members nationwide.

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