Lee Norman

Class of '74

Dr. Lee Norman received the Legion of Merit award on July 21, 2023, from the United States Armed Forces after serving his country for nearly 50 years both domestically and internationally.

Norman graduated from Bemidji State University in 1974 and joined the Air Force the same year. Now, half a century later, he has received the Legion of Merit, an award given for exceptionally meritorious conduct in the performance of outstanding services and achievements. It is one of just two military awards worn around the neck, the other being the Medal of Honor.

“It was kind of a fitting end to my military career. It spans six different decades,” Norman said. “I went in in the 1970s and finally got out in the 2020s. Six decades, a lot of people can’t say that.”

Norman also enlisted in the Army at age 61 and met the same standards at boot camp as others who are younger than his children. He stayed with the Army until age 70 and exited the military at the end of last year.

He received the Legion of Merit award at the National World War I Museum and Memorial in Kansas City, Mo., authoring a fitting end to a lifetime of service.

“It’s quite rewarding. Both foreign and domestic service is a real treat,” Norman said. “I’d do it again in a heartbeat. … It was in my DNA to do that. I’m just real glad I had the opportunity.”

Norman was also recently hired as the senior medical director at Optum, a start-up that connects health system providers with industries such as insurance and tech so that people can receive more holistic and personalized medical care.