Obama awards belated Medals of Honor

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by David Jackson, USA TODAY

khou.com

Posted on March 18, 2014 at 4:49 PM

President Obama honored two dozen neglected heroes on Tuesday.

They had names like Garcia, Morris and Weinstein -- Hispanic, African-American and Jewish soldiers from decades past who, according to a congressionally ordered investigation, had been denied the Medal of Honor because of their race, creed or color.

"This ceremony is 70 years in the making," Obama said as he presented the long-delayed Medals of Honor to 24 soldiers from World War II as well as the Korea and Vietnam conflicts.

Of the two dozen recipients, eight fought in Vietnam, nine in Korea and seven in World War II.

Only three recipients are still living, while Obama pointed out that "ten never came home" from battle. One Korean War soldier has never been found.

While "no nation is perfect," Obama said that "here in America, we confront our imperfections and face a sometimes painful past -- including the truth that some of these soldiers fought and died for a country that did not always see them as equal."

The courage of these soldiers took many forms, Obama pointed out: Charging machine gun nests, confronting and climbing aboard tanks, engaging in hand-to-hand combat, and carrying wounded comrades to safety even while under fire.

In their times, the newest Medal of Honor recipients did earn the Distinguished Service Cross, the nation's second-highest military award. But Obama said their actions "merited the highest recognition. And today we have the chance to set the record straight."

The honorees came from all walks of life and all parts of the country, from Brooklyn to Nebraska to Puerto Rico. One Medal of Honor recipient: The late Leonard M. Kravitz, uncle of musician Lenny Kravitz.

It was the single largest group of service members to receive Medals of Honor at the same time since the Second World War, Obama said: "As one family member has said, this is long overdue."

The list of honorees, according to the White House.

The living recipients:

Specialist Four Santiago J. Erevia for his courageous actions while serving as radio telephone operator in Company C, 1st Battalion (Airmobile), 501st Infantry, 101st Airborne Division (Airmobile) during search and clear mission near Tam Ky, Republic of Vietnam.

Staff Sergeant Melvin Morris for his courageous actions while serving as Commander of a Strike Force drawn from Company D, 5th Special Forces Group (Airborne), 1st Special Forces, during combat operations against an armed enemy in the vicinity of Chi Lang, Republic of Vietnam on September 17, 1969.

Sergeant First Class Jose Rodela for his courageous actions while serving as the company commander, Detachment B-36, Company A, 5th Special Forces Group (Airborne), 1st Special Forces during combat operations against an armed enemy in Phuoc Long Province, Republic of Vietnam on September 1, 1969.

Posthumous Medal of Honor recipients.

From the Vietnam War:

Sergeant Candelario Garcia for his courageous actions while serving as an acting Team Leader for Company B, 1st Battalion, 2d Infantry, 1st Brigade,1st Infantry Division during combat operations against an armed enemy in Lai Khe, Republic of Vietnam on December 8, 1968.

Specialist Four Leonard L. Alvarado for his courageous actions while serving as a Rifleman with Company D, 2d Battalion, 12th Cavalry, 1st Cavalry Division (Airmobile) during combat operations against an armed enemy in Phuoc Long Province, Republic of Vietnam on August 12, 1969.

Staff Sergeant Felix M. Conde-Falcon for his courageous actions while serving as an acting Platoon Leader in Company D, 1st Battalion, 505th Infantry Regiment, 3d Brigade, 82d Airborne Division during combat operations against an armed enemy in Ap Tan Hoa, Republic of Vietnam on April 4, 1969.

Specialist Four Ardie R. Copas for his courageous actions while serving as a Machinegunner in Company C, 1st Battalion (Mechanized), 5th Infantry Regiment, 25th Infantry Division during combat operations against an armed enemy near Ph Romeas Hek, Cambodia on May 12, 1970.

Specialist Four Jesus S. Duran for his courageous actions while serving as an acting M-60 machinegunner in Company E, 2d Battalion, 5th Cavalry, 1st Cavalry Division (Airmobile) during combat operations against an armed enemy in the Republic of Vietnam on April 10, 1969.

From the Korean War:

Corporal Joe R. Baldonado for his courageous actions while serving as an acting machine gunner in 3d Squad, 2d Platoon, Company B, 187th Airborne Infantry Regiment during combat operations against an armed enemy in Kangdong, Korea on November 25, 1950.

Corporal Victor H. Espinoza for his courageous actions while serving as an Acting Rifleman in Company A, 23d Infantry Regiment, 2d Infantry Division during combat operations against an armed enemy in Chorwon, Korea on August 1, 1952.

Sergeant Eduardo C. Gomez for his courageous actions while serving with Company I, 8th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Cavalry Division during combat operations against an armed enemy in Tabu-dong, Korea on September 3, 1950.

Private First Class Leonard M. Kravitz for his courageous actions while serving as an assistant machinegunner with Company M, 5th Infantry Regiment, 24th Infantry Division during combat operations against an armed enemy in Yangpyong, Korea on March 6 and 7, 1951.

Master Sergeant Juan E. Negron for his courageous actions while serving as a member of Company L, 65th Infantry Regiment, 3d Infantry Division during combat operations against an armed enemy in Kalma-Eri, Korea on April 28, 1951.

Master Sergeant Mike C. Pena for his courageous actions while serving as a member of Company F, 5th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Cavalry Division during combat operations against an armed enemy in Waegwan, Korea, on September 4, 1950.

Private Demensio Rivera for his courageous actions while serving as an automatic rifleman with 2d Platoon, Company G, 7th Infantry Regiment, 3d Infantry Division during combat operations against an armed enemy in Changyong-ni, Korea on May 23, 1951.

Private Miguel A. Vera for his courageous actions while serving as an automatic rifleman with Company F, 38th Infantry Regiment, 2d Infantry Division in Chorwon, Korea, on September 21, 1952.

Sergeant Jack Weinstein for his courageous actions while leading 1st Platoon, Company G, 21st Infantry Regiment, 24th Infantry Division in Kumsong, Korea on October 19, 1951.

World War II:

Private Pedro Cano for his courageous actions while serving with Company C, 8th Infantry Regiment, 4th Infantry Division during combat operations against an armed enemy in Schevenhutte, Germany on December 3, 1944.

Private Joe Gandara for his courageous actions while serving with Company D, 2d Battalion, 507th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 17th Airborne Division during combat operations against an armed enemy in Amfreville, France on June 9, 1944.

Private First Class Salvador J. Lara for his courageous actions while serving as the Squad Leader of a rifle squad with 2d Platoon, Company L, 180th Infantry, 45th Infantry Division during combat operations against an armed enemy in Aprilia, Italy on May 27 and 28, 1944.

Sergeant William F. Leonard for his courageous actions while serving as a Squad Leader in Company C, 30th Infantry Regiment, 3d Infantry Division during combat operations against an armed enemy near St. Die, France on November 7, 1944.

Staff Sergeant Manuel V. Mendoza for his courageous actions while serving as a Platoon Sergeant with Company B, 350th Infantry, 88th Infantry Division during combat operations against an armed enemy on Mt. Battaglia, Italy on October 4, 1944.

Sergeant Alfred B. Nietzel for his courageous actions while serving as a section leader for Company H, 16th Infantry Regiment, 1st Infantry Division during combat operations against an armed enemy in Heistern, Germany on November 18, 1944.

First Lieutenant Donald K. Schwab for his courageous actions while serving as the Commander of Company E, 15th Infantry Regiment, 3d Infantry Division, during combat operations against an armed enemy near Lure, France on September 17, 1944.

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