The SBAA presents the Merit Award each year in honor of Major Richard L. Felman, whose service, sacrifice, and unwavering advocacy on behalf of the Serbian people remain a guiding inspiration to the SBAA.
A highly decorated veteran of the Second World War and Korea, and recipient of the Purple Heart, Major Felman was shot down over Nazi-occupied Yugoslavia in July 1944 while returning from a daring bombing mission against Hitler in Romania. He became one of over 500 American airmen rescued as part of Operation Halyard ― the historic rescue mission carried out by General Draza Mihailovic’s Chetnik resistance in Serbia in conjunction with Serbian-Americans in the United States military, and the greatest rescue of American lives from behind enemy lines in the history of warfare.
As a result of Operation Halyard, Major Felman often spoke of a debt of honor he owed the Serbian people. Major Felman repaid that debt many times over, tirelessly speaking in support of the Serbs throughout his remarkable life. The SBAA is proud to have presented the Merit Award to Major Felman in 1998, and to have renamed the award in recognition of Major Felman’s lifetime of service to the Serbian community.
The SBAA presents the Merit Award to an individual who exemplifies Major Felman’s honor, courage, and commitment to the Serbian community. In addition to Major Felman, Merit Award recipients include former Maryland Congresswoman +Helen Delich Bentley, former professional basketball player and current Sacramento Kings executive Vlade Divac, Bishop Irinej of Australia, and authors William Dorich and Greg Freeman.