The Education Center at The Wall
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The Charles “Mac” Mathias Award serves to recognize those individuals whose service to our country has been courageous and exemplary, whose devotion to duty is deep-seeded, and whose actions represent true American values of responsibility, righteousness and integrity. Previous recipients have included The Honorable John Warner and The Honorable Charles "Chuck" Hagel.
VVMF is proud to present the Charles “Mac” Mathias Award to The Honorable Tom Ridge, for his exemplary service and his lifelong dedication to the country. Governor Ridge was raised in a working-class family in veterans' public housing in Erie, PA. He earned a scholarship to Harvard, graduating with honors in 1967. After his first year at Penn State University's Dickinson School of Law, he was drafted into the U.S. Army, where he served as an infantry staff sergeant in Vietnam, earning the Bronze Star for Valor, the Combat Infantry Badge and the Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry. After returning to his home state of Pennsylvania, he completed his law degree and was in private practice before becoming assistant district attorney in Erie County. Governor Ridge was elected to Congress in 1982. He was one of the first Vietnam combat veterans elected to the U.S. House of Representatives and was overwhelmingly re-elected by Pennsylvania voters five times. Governor Ridge has also served as the two-term Governor of Pennsylvania. Following the tragic events of September 11, 2001, Governor Ridge became the first Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and, on January 24, 2003, became the first Secretary of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. Governor Ridge is president and CEO of Ridge Global and leads a team of international experts that help businesses and governments address a wide range of needs throughout their organizations.
Throughout his career, Governor Ridge consistently answered the call to service as a former soldier, congressmen, governor and cabinet member. He stands out in his commitment to high standards and his focus on results. As Governor of Pennsylvania, he delivered on his promise to make Pennsylvania "a leader among states and a competitor among nations." Governor Ridge's aggressive technology strategy helped fuel the state's advances in economic development, education, health care and the environment. As Secretary of Homeland Security, he worked with more than 180,000-plus employees from a combined 22 agencies to create an agency that facilitated the flow of people and goods, instituted layered security at air, land and seaports, developed a unified national response and recovery plan, protected critical infrastructure, integrated new technology and improved information sharing worldwide. Governor Ridge continues to contribute to matters concerning our nation’s veterans and, along with General Tommy Franks (Ret.), serves as national co-chairman of the Flight 93 Memorial Fundraising Campaign.
Charles “Mac” Mathias Award History:
In 2010, former U.S. Senator Charles Mathias Jr. of Maryland died at the age of 87 from Parkinson’s disease. He was part of a generation of rare lawmakers–a statesman in every context of the word and a friend to America’s veterans and their families. Although he opposed the Vietnam War, as a World War II veteran himself, he understood the sacrifices of those who served.
Senator Mathias was one of the original sponsors of the legislation in 1979 that authorized the construction of a Vietnam Veterans War Memorial in our nation’s capitol. The Senator was responsible for choosing the National Mall as the site of the Memorial, giving it his time, attention and devotion until its completion on Veterans Day 1982.