WASHINGTON -- President George W. Bush bestowed Presidential Citizen Medals on a figure from the Watergate scandal, the librarian of Congress and the actor known as Lieutenant Dan in the 1994 Academy Award-winning movie "Forrest Gump."
In total, the president recognized 23 individuals and one posthumously on Wednesday with the second highest honor for a civilian, second only to the Presidential Medal of Freedom. The awards were conferred in the Oval Office in a private ceremony.
Bush recognized Charles Colson, the first member of the Nixon administration to serve prison time for Watergate-related offenses. After being released from Maxwell prison in Alabama, Colson founded Prison Fellowship in 1976, which conducts outreach to prisoners, former convicts, crime victims and their families.
"For more than three decades, Chuck Colson has dedicated his life to sharing the message of God's boundless love and mercy with prisoners, former prisoners and their families," the White House said in the citation. "Through his strong faith and leadership, he has helped courageous men and women from around the world make successful transitions back into society."
Colson was counsel to President Richard M. Nixon from 1969-73. Although he was never charged or prosecuted for the June 1972 break-in of Democratic headquarters at the Watergate Hotel, Colson did enter a guilty plea to Watergate-related charges. In 1974, he pleaded guilty to obstruction of justice in the case of the break-in at the offices of Daniel Ellsberg's psychiatrist. Ellsberg had angered the Nixon administration when he released the Pentagon Papers, a secret Pentagon study of the Vietnam War, to The New York Times and other news organizations.
Colson served seven months of a one-to-three year sentence. Watergate forced Nixon to resign the presidency
After receiving his medal, Sinise told reporters that he had volunteered to help the USO after the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, sending school supplies to Iraqi children. The White House cited him as a humanitarian and a patriot.
"I'm deeply touched to receive this medal," Sinise said.
Bush also recognized James H. Billington, the librarian of Congress, citing his work for two decades overseeing the world's largest library, the Library of Congress.