HEMET — U.S. Rep. Raul Ruiz, M.D. on Wednesday presented the Congressional Gold Medal – the highest civilian award in the United States – to local World War II veteran Sgt. William Becker.

. Becker was a member of the Office of Strategic Services (OSS), a top-secret agency that played a pivotal role in destabilizing Nazi Germany.

During World War II, Sgt. Becker participated in a top-secret operation, codenamed CARPETBAGGER, whose mission was to fly deep into enemy territory in the black of night to parachute in OSS agents, weapons, ammunitions, explosives, and other military supplies to resistance groups. Hemet resident Sgt. Becker is one of fewer than one hundred OSS members alive today.

“Sgt. Becker is a true American hero who went above and beyond the call of duty to serve and protect our nation,” Ruiz said of the World War II veteran. “Our district is fortunate to have such an inspiring role model living right here in Hemet, and I am honored to recognize Sgt. Becker for his historical service to our nation by presenting him with the Congressional Gold Medal.”

The Congressional Gold Medal is the highest civilian honor that Congress can bestow. George Washington was the first Congressional Gold Medal recipient, with other honorees including the Wright Brothers, Thomas Edison, Walt Disney, and the American Red Cross. Congress passed legislation on December 14, 2016 awarding the Congressional Gold Medal to members of the Office of Strategic Services for their superior service and major contributions during World War II.

Bill Becker was born in Bronx, N.Y., in 1926. After graduating from high school, he worked as a specialist in airplane propeller repair until April 1944, when he enlisted in the U.S. Army Air Forces. He completed basic training at Biloxi, Miss., and then attended flight school at Tyndall Field in Florida. Mr. Becker was trained as a top turret gunner in the B-24 Liberator bomber. He was then sent to Chatham Army Airfield in Georgia, where he trained together with the B-24 combat crew with which he would soon go to war. Their stateside training complete, Becker and his crew arrived at Harrington Airfield in England on February 2, 1945, where they were assigned to the 492nd Bombardment Group of the U.S. Eighth Air Force during World War II.

In 1946, William Becker was honorably discharged and moved back to New York with his wife and children. From 1946 to 1975, he worked with his family at their seafood distribution company. In 1975, he moved to San Diego, Calif., to retire, but ended up back in the distribution business. After running the company for several years he left it to his children. Since then, the Word War II veteran has made his home here in Hemet with his significant other Jean.