December 10, 2019

Van Hollen, Brown Announce Inclusion of Honorary Promotion for Bethesda Veteran Charles McGee in Defense Authorization Bill

Today, U.S. Senator Chris Van Hollen and Representative Anthony Brown (both D-Md.) announced the inclusion of their provision to authorize the honorary promotion of Colonel (Ret.) Charles E. McGee, United States Air Force to Brigadier General within the House and Senate negotiated National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). Col. McGee, a resident of Bethesda, Md., served with the Tuskegee Airmen in World War II, completing 136 combat missions. He completed an additional 100 combat missions in the Korean Conflict and 173 combat missions in the Vietnam War, amassing a record three-war total of combat missions – 409 – of any Air Force fighter pilot, with 100 missions or more in each. Col. McGee completed a distinguished 30-year career in the United States Air Force, serving in numerous leadership and command capacities and becoming the first African American to command a stateside Air Force Wing and Base in the integrated Air Force.


“Col. Charles McGee's service to our country is remarkable and fully merits this distinguished honor. I was proud to fight for the inclusion of this promotion to commemorate his work and his sacrifice. This progress comes just days after Col. McGee’s 100th birthday, and I could not think of a more fitting recognition from a truly grateful nation,” said Senator Van Hollen.


“The honorary promotion of Col. Charles McGee to Brigadier General in this year’s National Defense Authorization Act was personal. The recognition of Col. McGee’s heroism is both well deserved and long overdue. As a barrier breaking African American pilot and commander in the Air Force, Col. McGee’s service has inspired generations of African American aviators who followed in his footsteps,” said former Army aviator Congressman Anthony Brown. “In combat and in his leadership and command capacities, Col. McGee always served the United States with patriotism and distinction. His legacy should make us all proud.”


In July, Senator Van Hollen introduced legislation to authorize Col. McGee’s promotion, which was then passed unanimously by the full Senate. Senator Van Hollen and Congressman Brown also pushed to include these provisions within the House and Senate NDAA. The negotiated House and Senate NDAA Conference Agreement will now go to the House and Senate floors for a final vote, before proceeding to the President’s desk.    


“No words of gratitude will convey the heartfelt thanks for your support and persistence. Dad has devoted his life to serving the United States. Through times when the nation expected him to fail, to record setting three war engagements and retirement after numerous exemplary achievements, his dedication the United States and the United States Air Force are deserving of this honor,” said Col. McGee’s son, Ron McGee.


Yvonne McGee, Col. McGee’s youngest daughter said, “Our hearts are overflowing with joy that Dad's long overdue promotion is finally coming to fruition. For a man who's entire life has been in service to God and country, attaining this, from representatives of the same institution that 78 years ago wanted to limit his participation in the American dream, is the perfect way for a grateful nation to say ' thank you'. We are so proud of our Senator Van Hollen, who's support and tenacity was key in making this possible and the best present ever for Dad's 100th birthday!”


“We are delighted that the honorary promotion is moving forward. Our father's achievements are most worthy of this recognition. His life of service is an example and inspiration to all,” said Charlene McGee-Smith PhD, biographer and Col. McGee’s eldest daughter.


In March, the Secretary of the Air Force determined that Col. McGee is qualified for and merits an honorary promotion to Brigadier General. The next step is this legislation authorizing the President to issue the promotion.