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Congressman Gus Bilirakis

Representing the 12th District of Florida

Gus Presents Lost WWII Honors to Safety Harbor Resident

May 29, 2008
Bilirakis Blog

On Wednesday, Gus presented Safety Harbor resident and WWII gunner, George Costage, with the Distinguished Flying Cross for his heroic service in carrying out aerial combat missions over occupied Europe.

Below is some of the media coverage from the event.

From the St. Pete Times...

Costage was presented with the Distinguished Flying Cross by U.S. Rep. Gus Bilirakis, R-Palm Harbor, for his heroism during aerial combat over Europe.

"I've known George for 25 years,'' Bilirakis said. "He's almost like a father figure to me. He just told me my shoelaces were untied.''

Bilirakis went on to describe Costage's bravery, honor and dignity — qualities that served him well on 35 combat missions from August 1944 to March 1945. At the time of his discharge, the criteria for receiving the medal was different, according to the congressman's office. It was later changed, and officials discovered that Costage was eligible for the honor after all.

"Congratulations,'' Bilirakis said, handing Costage the medal. "You're so deserving.''

A former Safety Harbor city commissioner and vice mayor, Costage normally is not at a loss for words. But at that moment he was so filled with emotion he could hardly speak.

"I can't talk,'' he said. "I'm sorry. I'm just shook up.'' Read more...

From The Suncoast Pinellas News...

Today, 63 years after the fact, Costage was presented with the Distinguished Flying Cross, an honor he said he was supposed to have received before he left Europe and returned to the United States.

"It's a big surprise," said Costage, 84, who was told only hours before that he would be receiving the medal. "I really didn't think I'd get it, not this late. It's 60-some years."

With help from the office of U.S. Rep. Gus Bilirakis, R-Palm Harbor, Costage was able to have his service record corrected to reflect his achievements in aerial combat during World War II.

Bilirakis said Costage, who served as a staff sergeant with the U.S. Army Air Forces, mentioned during a discussion they had a few months ago that he never received the Distinguished Flying Cross.

"He said, 'I earned it, but I never received it,' said Bilirakis, who has known Costage for about 25 years."He didn't push for it, but I said he deserved it. He's a true hero."

A speechless Costage received the medal during a short ceremony at Briar Creek Mobile Home Park, where he and his wife of 52 years, Nancy, have lived since 1977. About 50 friends and neighbors attended and gave him a standing ovation. Read more...