Navy veteran Sen. John McCain, groundbreaking Air Force Brig. Gen. Wilma Vaught and Gold Star father Khizr Khan will be among 17 individuals honored with the Presidential Medal of Freedom later this month, White House officials announced Friday.
The award, the nation’s highest civilian honor, is presented to individuals “who have made exemplary contributions to the prosperity, values or security of the United States, world peace” or other significant endeavors.
President Joe Biden will award the medals during a White House ceremony July 7. In a statement, he said the group members " embody the soul of the nation: hard work, perseverance and faith.”
McCain is one of three posthumous honorees on the list. He was a Navy pilot and prisoner of war during the Vietnam War before becoming representing Arizona in the U.S. House and Senate for 35 years. He died in 2018.
Biden served alongside McCain in the Senate and has frequently praised the Republican lawmaker as a friend, despite their political differences. McCain was the GOP nominee for president in 2008 but lost to Barack Obama, who chose Biden as his vice president.
Vaught is one of the most decorated women in the history of the U.S. military. When she retired in 1985, she was one of only seven women generals in the Armed Forces.
She has also been active in women veterans issues since her retirement, helping to found the Women in Military Service for America Memorial Foundation, which established the first major national memorial honoring women who have defended America.
Khan is the father of Army Capt. Humayun Khan, who was killed in 2004 while deployed to Iraq. He rose to national prominence after the Democratic National Convention in 2016, where he sharply criticized then GOP nominee Donald Trump for anti-immigration policies.
Since then, he has founded the Constitution Literacy and National Unity Center, and was appointed to the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom by Biden.
The list of medal recipients also includes Olympian Simone Biles, who was raised by her grandfather, an Air Force veteran. She has referenced his military service as an inspiration for her own focus in past interviews.
Other well-known recipients include actor Denzel Washington, Apple founder Steve Jobs, former Arizona Rep. Gabby Giffords and soccer star Megan Rapinoe.
Since the medal was created in 1963, 647 individuals have been awarded the honor, not including the latest group.
Leo covers Congress, Veterans Affairs and the White House for Military Times. He has covered Washington, D.C. since 2004, focusing on military personnel and veterans policies. His work has earned numerous honors, including a 2009 Polk award, a 2010 National Headliner Award, the IAVA Leadership in Journalism award and the VFW News Media award.