May 8, 2015
BELMONT, NY – During the noon hour on Friday, Congressman Tom Reed awarded former Tuskegee Airman Wallace Higgins, the Congressional Gold Medal. “Wally Higgins, as you can see from the turnout here today, is one of our neighborhood true American heroes living among us,” Congressman Reed told WLEA News. “To recognize his life, his commitment to the community, his military service with the Civil Air Patrol and the Air Force, to have opportunities to spend an hour with him, like I have today, is just a blessing, and it’s something I’ll cherish for many years to come.”
Wallace Higgins, an Alfred University graduate, spoke of his time with the Tuskegee Airman, his life, and how he wished that his wife Norma, who is currently in a nursing home, could have been there.
A letter from Senator Cathy Young was read by a representative from her office. In the letter, Senator Young apologized that she could not attend the ceremony. Her letter spoke highly of Higgins and his World War II record and many achievements since.
Assemblyman Joe Giglio, and representatives from Governor Andrew Cuomo’s office and the Civil Air Patrol were in attendance for the event. Also present was former Allegany County Legislator Brent Reynolds, as well as officials from Alfred University and Alfred State College, the Patriot Guard, and numerous Higgins family members.
See letter below from State Senator Cathy Young
May 8, 2015
Dear Mr. Higgins,
I deeply regret that I am unable to join you as you receive the Congressional Gold Medal as this event was scheduled on a day I could not attend. It was my privilege and honor to nominate you to be a recipient of this award. Your noble service as a member of the Civil Air Patrol, and as participant in the Tuskegee Airmen experiment, makes you overwhelmingly deserving of this recognition.
Brought to life in the late 1930s, the Civil Air Patrol began through the efforts of more than 150,000 volunteers. With a love for aviation, these volunteers argued for the creation of an organization to put their planes and flying skills to use in defense of their country. Thousands of volunteer members of the Civil Air Patrol answered America’s call to service by performing critical wartime missions like watching for enemy aircraft on the skyline and monitoring traffic at airports across the nation.
Assigned to the War Department under the jurisdiction of the Army Air Corps, members of the Civil Air Patrol logged more than 500,000 flying hours, sank two enemy submarines, and saved hundreds of crash victims during World War II.
Furthermore, your service as a member of the Tuskegee Airmen experiment, and later as a member of the 1909th Engineers Aviation Battalion, stands as a testament to your loyalty, dedication and sacrifice for our great nation.
Each and every one of us owes you a tremendous debt of gratitude for your sacrifice on our behalf.
Therefore, it is with the utmost respect and admiration that I am proud to announce today that on Tuesday, May 19, 2015 you will be enshrined in the New York State Senate’s Veterans’ Hall of Fame.
I thank you for your service to our great state and nation. It is an honor to call you my constituent and my friend, and I look forward to seeing you later this month at the Veterans’ Hall of Fame ceremony.
Catharine Young, Senator, 57th