24 veterans to get the Medal of Honor decades later

NEW YORK (CNN) – The White House will award the Medal of Honor next month to 24 veterans, righting a wrong that’s been a long time coming.

The honor follows a Congressional review to determine if any veterans where passed over for the nation’s highest military honor because of prejudice.

Sergeant 1st Class Melvin Morris was just 19 when he became a green beret. He volunteered to go Vietnam.

In 1969, under heavy fire, hit multiple times, bleeding, he rescued dead and wounded troops. The army says he showed “determination possessed by few men” and his ability to lead “has rarely been equaled.”

At 72, with his wife of 51 years Mary, the pride, the dignity and now a wrong will be made right. Morris is one of 24 veterans, who decades late, will receive the nation’s highest military distinction, the Medal of Honor.

It is a roll call of bravery and heroism above and beyond the call of duty for men who served in World War II, Korea and Vietnam. Only Morris and two other Vietnam veterans are still living.

In 2002, congress ordered a review of Jewish and Hispanic veterans’ war records, to find who may have suffered discrimination and not been awarded the honors they deserved.

Potential African American discrimination was also found, all are now being recognized.

“I had heard rumors to the fact that there were certain people that people thought should have received the Medal of Honor,” said Col. Harvey Barnum.

Retired marine and Vietnam vet Harvey Barnum received his medal of honor in 1967. His unit also under intense fire, with complete disregard for his safety, he moved to save others.

Just one message for the Vietnam survivors.

“I look forward to putting my arms around them and calling them brother and saying welcome home,” said Col. Barnum.

Two other living Vietnam veterans will receive the medal.

Radio operator Santiago Erevia’s was under fire all day on May 21, 1969. In total peril, he assaulted a line of enemy bunkers, throwing hand grenades and firing his M-16. He came home to work for the postal service for 32 years. His son Roland served three tours in Iraq.

Sergeant 1st class Jose Rodela’s battalion was under such heavy fire on September 1, 1969 it suffered 42 casualties in minutes.

Army records say the unit ‘was on the brink of panic” when Rodela stepped in, physically pushing men to fight, even as the unit was still under fire. Today he is in frail health.

Of the recipients who have passed away, some died in action in Europe, Korea and Vietnam. Some like PFC William Leonard of New York, who fought in France during WWII, came home to live out their lives.

Leonard worked in the auto industry and as a butcher.

He died five days before his 72nd birthday, sitting in his backyard listening to a New York Yankees game on the radio.

Comments are closed.