American hero: Yeager deserves a commemorative stamp

by Greg Jordan

The United States has a tradition of issuing commemorative postage stamps honoring citizens who have achieved extraordinary things that enriched their country.

In 2023, stamps issued by the U.S. Postal Service included ones recognizing people such as Ernest J. Gaines, the author of novels including “The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman” and “A Lesson Before Dying.” Yet another stamp recognized the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the 107th Supreme Court Justice of the United States.

Now it’s time for an extraordinary West Virginian to receive this honor, too.

On Dec. 7, lawmakers in Washington, D.C., including U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va. and U.S. Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., as well as U.S. Rep. Carol Miller, R-W.Va. and U.S. Rep. Alex Mooney, R-W.Va., sent a letter to Postmaster General Louis DeJoy asking the United States Postal Service to issue a commemorative stamp honoring West Virginian and Brigadier General Charles Elwood “Chuck” Yeager.

Yeager passed away on Dec. 7, 2020. This year marks the third anniversary of his passing, and this qualifies him for the honor of a commemorative stamp.

“Today, on the third anniversary of his passing, Chuck becomes eligible to be honored on a commemorative stamp issued by the United States Postal Service,” the lawmakers said in their letter on Dec. 7. “We encourage you to issue a new stamp celebrating Chuck’s life at the earliest possible date, so that his legacy may be remembered and his contributions to our nation and to humanity may be celebrated.”

If anybody deserves the title of hero, it’s Chuck Yeager.

Born in West Virginia, he flew P-51 fighters over Europe during World War II and achieved 12.5 aerial victories. He was shot down over occupied France early in his service career, but he evaded capture with the help of French resistance fighters and returned to the war.

Yeager earned the title “ace in a day” by achieving five aerial victories on Oct. 12, 1944. He added another four victories to his tally on Nov. 27, 1944, and completed his final flight on Jan. 15, 1945, having flown 64 combat missions.

After the end of the war, Yeager’s exceptional flying skills led to him being selected for the Air Force’s new Flight Test Division at Wright Field in Ohio.

Yeager went on to achieve a milestone in aviation history.

On Oct. 14, 1947, Yeager climbed into the rocket-powered Bell X-1 — which he named “Glamorous Glennis” after his wife — and did what was then thought impossible by breaking the sound barrier, reaching a top speed of Mach 1.06. Yeager served his country for another 28 years after his historic flight, until he retired from active duty in 1975.

Yeager’s career and historic accomplishments were commemorated with many awards, and he was inducted into the National Aviation Hall of Fame in 1973. Congress awarded him a Congressional Silver Medal in December 1975, which President Gerald Ford presented to him in a ceremony at the White House. Yeager was also inducted into the International Air & Space Hall of Fame, the International Space Hall of Fame and the Aerospace Walk of Honor.

Now is the time to bestow another honor on a man who is both a West Virginian and national hero. Brigadier General Charles Elwood “Chuck” Yeager took extraordinary risks when he fought for his country during World War II and again in Oct. 14, 1947, when he undertook a dangerous mission by breaking the sound barrier for the first time.

Chuck Yeager’s lifetime of achievement is more than worthy of a commemorative stamp. Now is the time to issue one.

Contact Greg Jordan at [email protected]