Honoring a Prestigious Woman in Aviation

Wanda Powell served in the military since 1944.

BLOOMINGTON - One of the country's most prestigious awards has a new home in McLean County.

A woman, one of the few to serve in world war two, gets to have it all to herself.

A small gathering at the prairie aviation museum in Bloomington marks a big accomplishment... 

"It means a lot…I'm so proud."

The 86-year-old Wanda Powell, also known as Rae during world war two, received a congressional gold medal.

An honor, very few people earn, especially a women in aviation.   

"When you just do a few things along your life, uh it adds up, and I guess it added up for me,” Powell said.      

"To really show that the service and the sacrifice that Wanda has was remarkable,” Congressman Darin LaHood said.

Her journey with the military started in 1944.

Powell joined the civil air patrol during her sophomore year of high school, learning to march and looking for enemy aircrafts in California.

She says it started as a hobby because of her love for planes. 

"Civil air patrol is something to do in high school, that they don't talk about much, or they don't, they don't push you into it,” Powell said.

Which is why she stands out.

Congressman Darin LaHood, saying in a speech she took initiative and helped when needed. 

"That's part of the reason why they call her generation the greatest, and to have one of our own, someone from McLean County is a real tribute to her,” LaHood said.

Some say it's an inspiration.

"It doesn't matter where you came from, or what you're doing, you can give to this country in a way that is special and unique,” said Michael Willis with Civil Air Patrol.

"We continue everyday to lose more and more World War II veterans, so we have to continue to pay tribute to people like Wanda,” LaHood said.

She says she wouldn't have been able to do it without some help, from one person in particular.

"My husband would probably be proud of me now too,” Powell said.

Powell says she was never able to fly as a member of the civil air patrol, but says her love of aviation is what kept her involved. 

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