Cedar Rapids man receives Congressional Gold Medal

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CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (KCRG TV9) -- A Cedar Rapids man who served in the Civil Air Patrol received the highest civilian honor bestowed by Congress.

On Sunday, the late Willard Carson was awarded the Congressional Gold Medal.

Willard Carson died in 1994. His family says today's ceremony helped them remember what a great man he was and the legacy he left in the Cedar Rapids area.

Carl Carson grew up loving airplanes; following in the footsteps of his father, Willard, who became a pilot in 1938.

When WWII broke out, Carl says his father wanted to join the fight.

"It was the patriotic thing to do," Carson said.

But Willard wasn't eligible to enlist in the military. Instead, he decided to put his flying skills to use and joined the Iowa Civil Air Patrol.

"They would fly their airplanes around an look for downed airplanes and people that were lost," Carson said.

A younger Carl helped his father, as he was too young to join to the Civil Air Patrol.

"What I would do with my father is go out, and set up simulated situations where my dad would take his airplane, hide it, to simulate a lost airplane," he said.

Carl says his father's service in the Civil Air Patrol was one of the most memorable times of his life.

His father's passion, made Carl want to authenticate his service to the patrol.

"It's important for me to recognize these people who did efforts in World War Two.'

Carl applied for his father to receive the Congressional Gold Medal less than two months ago.

And because his mother kept a scrapbook containing pictures, ID's and badges of Willard's time in the patrol, the process went by quickly.

It culminated with Sunday's ceremony, where Carl accepted an award more than 60 years in the making.

He says it's a honor for both him, and his father.

"He would be very proud. He would."

In 2014, lawmakers passed a law allowing Civil Air Patrol members to be eligible for the Congressional Gold Medal.