On March 18, President Obama will award the Medal of Honor to 24 Army veterans “following a congressionally mandated review to ensure that eligible recipients were not bypassed due to prejudice.”
According to the Associated Press, the “mass ceremony…will honor veterans, most of Hispanic or Jewish heritage, who had already been recognized with the distinguished service cross.”
Three of the recipients are living, and Melvin Morris is one of them. He was previously “commended for courageous actions while a staff sergeant during combat operations on September 17, 1969, in the vicinity of Chi Lang, South Vietnam.”
Morris is a black man who said President Obama told him “he was sorry this didn’t happen before.”
The other two living recipients are Spc. 4 Santiago J. Erevia of San Antonio–“cited for courage during a search and clear mission near Tam Ky, South Vietnam, on May 21, 1969”–and Sgt. 1st Class Jose Rodela of San Antonio–“cited for courage during combat operations in Phuoc Long province, South Vietnam, on Sept. 1, 1969.”
The Army “conducted the review under a directive from Congress in the 2002 National Defense Authorization Act. The law required that the record of each Jewish American and Hispanic American veteran who received a Service Cross during or after World War II be reviewed for possible upgrade to the Medal of Honor.” The Army then “reviewed the cases of the 6,505 recipients of the Distinguished Service Cross from World War II and the Korean and Vietnam wars and found an eligible pool of 600 soldiers who may have been Jewish or Hispanic.”
These were narrowed to 24 who will be awarded the Medal of Honor. “Of the 24, eight fought in the Vietnam War, nine in the Korean War, and seven in World War II.”
Follow AWR Hawkins on Twitter @AWRhawkins.