ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — Minnesota will recognize a Medal of Honor recipient by flying flags at half-staff at state and federal buildings.

Flags will be flown half-staff on Wednesday as a birthday remembrance of Major Leo Thorsness, who died in May, Minnesota Public Radio reported .

Thorsness grew up on a farm in southwest Minnesota near Walnut Grove. He enlisted in the Air Force after graduating from college in South Dakota.

Thorsness risked his life as an Air Force pilot while defending a downed air crew in a mission over Vietnam in 1967. He stayed with the airmen even as his fuel and ammunition ran low, at one point leading enemy aircraft away from the crew.

He was shot down and captured on another mission, and spent six years as a prisoner of war.

President Nixon awarded him the medal when the war ended. Thorsness told MPR in 2007 that there are many other soldiers, pilots and sailors who also deserved to be recognized for their contributions.

"Those of us who have the Medal of Honor, we wear that for those who can't," said Thorsness.

Thorsness should be remembered for his heroism, said John Kraemer, chairman of the Minnesota Medal of Honor Memorial.

"I know how revered a figure he was," said Kraemer.

The Medal of Honor memorial will be located on the state capitol grounds and is expected to be completed next year.


Information from: Minnesota Public Radio News,