Medal of Honor ceremony rights a lot of past wrongs
31st March 2014 · 0 Comments
(Special to the Trice Edney News Wire from TheNorthStarNews.com) - President Barack Obama has awarded the Medal of Honor to 24 U.S. Army veterans who did not receive the nation’s highest combat medal because of racism either exhibited by their commanding officers and others.
The veterans, who fought in World War II, the Korean War and the Vietnam War, all received the Distinguished Service Cross, the nation’s second-highest service medal, at a White House ceremony March 17.
President Obama, however, upgraded those medals to the Medal of Honor after Congress in 2002 called for a review of the combat service of Jewish Americans and Hispanic Americans through the Defense Authorization Act.
During a review, records of several soldiers who were not Jewish nor were of Hispanic descent also were found to display criteria worthy of the Medal of Honor.
One of the Army veterans honored by President Obama was Melvin Morris, who served two tours of duty and was wounded three times in an attack on Sept. 17, 1969, near Chi Lang, South Vietnam that killed a fellow commander. Morris was commander of Third Company, Third Battalion of the IV Mobile Strike Force.
During the battle, Morris, a Green Baret, retrieved his fallen comrade’s body and a map that would have been useful to the enemy.
In 1970, the Army awarded Morris, then a staff sergeant, the Distinguished Service Cross. The 72-year-old Morris lives in Coca, Fla., according to Valor 24, the website of the Medal of Honor.
Morris is one of three Medal of Honor recipients still living. The others are Spec. 4 Santiago J. Erevia of San Antonio, Texas. Erevia was cited for courage during a search and clear mission near Tam Ky, South Vietnam on May 21, 1969. The other soldier is Sgt. 1st Class Jose Rodela also of San Antonio. Rodela was cited for courage during combat operations in Phuoc Long Province, South Vietnam, one Sept. 1, 1969.
The other recipients have died, and they will receive their medals posthumously.
This article originally published in the March 31, 2014 print edition of The Louisiana Weekly newspaper.