Lexington resident receives Congressional Gold Medal for WWII service

Published: Aug. 5, 2018 at 11:48 PM EDT
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On Sunday, Congressman Andy Barr presented an elderly Lexington resident with the prestigious Congressional Gold Medal for her service during World War II.

The Congressional Gold Medal is the highest civilian award presented by the United States Congress.

While the memories are fading for 94-year-old Mary Pat Shely, her country is making sure her sacrifice won't be forgotten.

2nd Lieutenant Shely joined the Civil Air Patrol in 1942, after teaching herself how to fly a plane out on her Kentucky farm. On her own, she learned to fly the Piper Cub aircraft her father bought her, and then flew with the Lexington Squadron.

"I just was lucky to be down there on the... close to the farm, where there was a good sized farm, where you have the ability to fly," said Shely.

To her, the biggest obstacle in self-taught aviation was the curious onlookers. "Long as you get the cattle out of the way, and the pigs out of the way, you'll be all right," Shely explained.

Shely took her can-do attitude to the skies, playing a crucial role on the home front during World War II.

"Helping to protect the shorelines of the United States and their merchant vessels against lethal enemy submarine attacks while actively saving the lives of countless Americans and our allies," said Rep. Barr.

On Sunday, Shely was honored with the highest award Congress can give a civilian, which is the Congressional Gold Medal.

While it was a moment roughly 70 years in the making, it was a moment worth waiting for.

"Take your time, and everything is going to be all right," said Shely.