President Barack Obama will be honoring civilians with the second-highest civilian honor—the 2012 Presidential Citizens Medal—on Friday, February 15 and the list of 13 includes Indian country’s own Billy Mills.
“It is my distinguished honor to award these individuals the 2012 Citizens Medal for their commitment to public service,” Obama said in a White House press release. “Their selflessness and courage inspire us all to look for opportunities to better serve our communities and our country.”
Mills along with the other 12 honorees were among a group of 6,000 nominations.
The Oglala Lakota citizen, is remembered for his unexpected gold medal in the 10,000 meter run during the 1964 Tokyo Olympics – and remains the only American to win the event. Mills served as a First lieutenant in the United States Marine Corps, and was made a warrior following his Olympic performance. In 1986 he co-founded Running Strong for American Indian Youth with Eugene Krizek, president of Christian Relief Services, “an organization that supports cultural programs and provides health and housing assistance for Native American communities,” according to the release.
In 1969 the Citizens Medal was established to honor “American citizens who have performed exemplary deeds of service for their country or their fellow citizens,” the release states.