DECATUR Ga. — Heroically they fought and served defending against the spread of Nazism during WWII and spearheading integration within all units of the United States Armed Forces, but for an unknown number of surviving Tuskegee Airmen, formal recognition is something that still has not come…

That would change for one such hero, Tuskegee Airman Harry Rock, on Apr. 18, when U.S. Rep. John Lewis would present a replica of the Congressional Gold Medal.

Born in New York City on Dec. 31, 1923, Rock entered into active service with the Army Corps on Apr. 12, 1943, effectively becoming a member of the famed Tuskegee Airmen–the nation’s first African-American military aviation unit.

Over the span of two years, Rock served in a myriad of roles ranging from medical basic to basic training quartermaster, until an honorable discharge in 1945. He transitioned into long-standing careers with the U.S. post office and Sanford Realty, tucking away his life as a soldier–as many others did.

Rock’s contributions as a Tuskegee Airman were recalled again in 2012, after a chance meeting with his comrades during a Sam’s Club store presentation on the Tuskegee Airmen. Rock, in a wheelchair, urged his caretaker Glenda Hill, to take him to the presentation, rather than their planned shopping excursion. Hill then introduced Rock as a fellow Tuskegee Airman, igniting efforts to verify Rock’s wartime service and status as a Documented Original Tuskegee Airman (DOTA).

“This is the circumstance of several Tuskegee Airmen who are under the public radar,” said Arit Essien, a former PR Officer for the Atlanta Chapter Tuskegee Airmen, who originally submitted Rock’s military documents for official verification.

Essien began the campaign for Rock’s service to be officially vetted and for the Congressional Gold Medal Ceremony, with the aid of Dekalb County SCLC and the National Congress of Black Women, Atlanta Youth Chapter.

Obtaining verification, Rock was invited the following year in 2013, as a distinguished guest to the Inauguration of President Obama, but declining health prevented him from attending. In May 2013, he was recognized by the Atlanta Braves during a Braves Heritage Week tribute. Rock gleefully sang the national anthem on-field, enjoying the awe of the moment–but family and friends say he aspired still to one day receive the Congressional Gold Medal.

Now, more than sixty years following the end of his military career, and seven years from the year his Airmen colleagues collectively were issued the Congressional Gold Medal, Rock will also receive his.

The Congressional Gold Medal is the nation’s highest civilian honor issued by Congress. In 2007, the medal was collectively bestowed upon the Tuskegee Airmen, with members receiving 3-inch bronze replicas from then President George Bush, in a Washington, D.C. ceremony. The original Congressional Gold Medal remaining permanently housed in the Smithsonian.