Tuskegee airman's stolen medal replaced

April 20, 2012 3:21:12 PM PDT
A northwest Indiana man was honored again Friday for being a member of the elite group of African-American military aviators known as the Tuskegee Airmen.

A medal awarded years ago to Quentin Smith of Gary was stolen. He received a replacement medal at a special ceremony Friday night at his home.

Tuskegee Airman Quentin Smith earned the Congressional Gold Medal in 2007 for his service. Last summer, thieves ransacked his home, and stole the medal that was so special to Smith.

The 93-year-old's health soon landed him in the hospital. He didn't tell anyone about the stolen medal. Months later he told a friend who happened to be a police officer. Local Congressman Pete Visclosky's office soon began the work to get smith a replacement medal.

"Dr. Smith has touched so many people's lives," said Mark Lopez, representing Congressman Visclosky's office. "It was an honor and a privilege for the congressman to right a wrong."

Smith has been a mentor to many. After World War II he spent over 50 years as a teacher and high school principal.

Gary's mayor called Smith a jewel in the community.

"Separate and apart from his status as a Tuskegee airman, which is a lot to give him kudos for, he has been a longstanding principal, was a member of our airport board, a driving force in terms of the development of our airport, and so we think that he deserves this. Certainly, he earned it. The circumstances under which it was taken from him were not good, so we're just gratified he was able to get a replacement today," said Gary Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson.

Now that a replica medal is back in Smith's possession, he couldn't be happier.

Police have not found the original medal or determined who is responsible for stealing it.

Smith also received the key to the city of Gary.