On Tuesday, President Barack Obama awarded 24 minority U.S. soldiers, who collectively served in three of the nation’s wars and were never rewarded for their courage, with the Medal of Honor, reports the Associated Press. Only three of the 24 were alive for President Barack Obama to drape the medals and ribbons around their necks; the others were awarded the honor posthumously.
“Today we have the chance to set the record straight,” Obama said. “No nation is perfect, but 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 three surviving recipients—Vietnam veterans Jose Rodela, Melvin Morris and Santiago Erevia—received a prolonged standing ovation as the stood by the president’s side.
According to AP, Tuesday’s ceremony is the largest since World War II, and issued by Congress in the 2002 National Defense Authorization Act issue and conducted under Army review. The law required the Army to go through all of the records of each Jewish-American and Hispanic-American veteran who received a Distinguished Service Cross during or after World War II to determine if they could be upgraded to the Medal of Honor. From this review some the Army found 6,505 recipients and narrowed that field to an eligible pool of 600 soldiers who may have been Jewish or Hispanic, AP reports. Of the two-dozen men honored, 18 are Latinos.
At the end of the ceremony, after a brief biography of each recipient had been recited and each medal accepted of behalf of those who had passed away, the president thanked their families for their service. “We are so grateful to them. We are so grateful to their families. It makes us proud and it makes us inspired,” he said.