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Retired Col. James Ruffer received a Bronze Star Medal with Valor Device for his role in the rescue of an American hostage in Panama in December 1989. The Air Force only recently declassified Ruffer's role in the rescue operation; thus, public recognition came only now for his heroism, according to an Aug. 28 release from Nellis AFB, Nev. "Being able to say I helped in the plans to extract an American held hostage is something that brings me a great sense of honor," said Ruffer, who retired from the Air Force in 1995. Maj. Gen. Jeffrey Lofgren, commander of the US Air Force Warfare Center at Nellis, presented Ruffer with the medal. Ruffer was serving in Panama in 1989 as the deputy command surgeon for US Southern Command. During that time, the Panamanian government imprisoned a US civilian for his role in an anti-Manuel Noriega radio station. Over a nine-month period, Ruffer treated the civilian, whom the Panamanians had severely abused. He also provided detailed intelligence to Delta Force members on the layout of the prison that made the successful rescue mission possible on Dec. 20, 1989. (Nellis report by SrA. Daniel Hughes)