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Salem resident Brian Anderson, right, and retired Lt. Col. Richard E. Cole, one of four surviving Doolittle Tokyo Raiders, shared a moment at the Tomb of the Unknowns during a visit to Washington last week. (COURTESY)

Couple’s efforts help to get heroic WW II pilots honored in D.C.

SALEM — It was a Memorial Day weekend to remember for a Salem couple, having spent much of the past year working to get legislation passed honoring the Doolittle Tokyo Raiders, a group of heroic World War II pilots.

Last week Brian and Cyndee Anderson traveled to Washington, D.C., where they witnessed the concluding result of their actions.

Brian Anderson said the highlight of his trip was definitely the moment when President Barack Obama offered his chair to Lt. Col. Richard E. Cole, one of the four surviving Raiders, before signing the bill into law.

“He was just so personable,” Anderson said of the President.

Cole, who will turn 99 this fall, was the co-pilot of Crew No. 1 and was the only surviving Raider able to make last week’s trip, traveling from his current home in Comfort, Texas.

With the legislation now passed, Cole, along with his comrades Lt. Col. Edward D. Saylor and Sgt. David J. Thatcher, both Montana natives, and Texas native Lt. Col. Robert J. Hite, all in their 90s, will soon be formally recognized with Congressional Gold Medals.

Congressional Gold Medals are considered the highest civilian honors and are typically reserved for Americans whose actions played a vital role in the nation’s history and culture.

If all goes as planned, the custom-designed medals will be minted and ready to present to the four elderly veterans sometime in November.

Anderson, an avid history buff who serves as the Raiders’ Sergeant-at-Arms, said he arrived in Washington on Sunday, May 18 and returned the day after the Memorial Day holiday.

During his time there, he not only got to observe parts of the legislative process few Americans get to actually see, but he was also able to cheer on Cole, who was selected to lead the National Memorial Day Parade as the Grand Marshal.

During their time in the nation’s capital, Cole and Anderson also had the chance to visit some of the national sites, including military monuments and the Tomb of the Unknowns.

The 80 members of the Doolittle Tokyo Raiders conducted a precarious raid in 1942, where 16 B-25 bombers, as each one carried five servicemen, took flight from the deck of the USS Hornet with the intent of dropping bombs over Japan before safely landing in a free section of China.

The Senate passed the legislation in Washington last Wednesday, May 21, and it was signed by the president two days later.

U.S. Sen. Kelly Ayotte was among several hundred legislators to back the bill and she cosponsored the Senate version.

“I’m proud to honor this group of American heroes for their outstanding courage and heroism in leading our nation out of some of its darkest days,” Ayotte said in a written statement. “This legislation rightly gives these men the recognition they deserve.”

U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen and U.S. Reps. Carol Shea- Porter and Annie Kuster also supported the legislation.

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