The Herald Bulletin

Morning Update

Nation & World

March 18, 2014

Obama presents Medal of Honor to 24 veterans

WASHINGTON — They were heroes who didn't get their due.

On Tuesday, 24 mostly ethnic or minority U.S. soldiers who performed bravely under fire in three of the nation's wars finally received the Medal of Honor that the government concluded should have been awarded a long time ago.

The servicemen — Hispanics, Jews and African-Americans — were identified following a congressionally mandated review to ensure that eligible recipients of the country's highest recognition for valor were not bypassed due to prejudice. Only three of the 24 were alive for President Barack Obama to drape the medals and ribbons around their necks.

"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 at Obama's side, their faces set in somber acknowledgement of the honor.

Rodela, now of San Antonio, was a 31-year-old company commander of a Special Forces strike group on Sept. 1, 1969, in Phuoc Long Province, Vietnam, when he and his company of Cambodian soldiers whom he had helped recruit came under fire from North Vietnamese Army troops.

According to his Medal of Honor citation and supporting documents, the battle lasted 18 hours and 11 men in his company were killed and 33 others wounded.

The citation states that late in the battle, Rodela "was the only member of his company who was moving and he began to run from one position to the next, checking for casualties and moving survivors into different positions in an attempt to form a stable defense line. Throughout the battle, in spite of his wounds, Rodela repeatedly exposed himself to enemy fire to attend to the fallen and eliminate an enemy rocket position."

In an interview with the Army News Service last December, he said simply, "We trained for this and I would have done it again."

Morris of Cocoa, Fla., was a staff sergeant during combat operations on Sept. 17, 1969, near Chi Lang, South Vietnam. According to the Pentagon, Morris led soldiers across enemy lines to retrieve his team sergeant, who had been killed. He single-handedly destroyed an enemy force hidden in bunkers that had pinned down his battalion. Morris was shot three times as he ran with American casualties.

Morris received the Distinguished Service Cross in April 1970. That same month, he returned to Vietnam for his second tour.

"I never really did worry about decorations," Morris told The Associated Press last month. But he said he fell to his knees when he received the surprise call from Obama with news that he was to be honored.

Erevia, also of San Antonio, was cited for courage while serving as a radio-telephone operator on May 21, 1969, during a search-and-clear mission near Tam Ky, South Vietnam. He was a specialist 4 when his battalion tried to take a hill fortified by Viet Cong and North Vietnam Army soldiers. The Pentagon says he single-handedly silenced four Viet Cong bunkers.

"I thought I was going to get killed when I started to advance because when you fight battles like that you don't expect to live," the 68-year-old retired postal worker told The Associated Press last month.

Among those who received a posthumous medal was Leonard Kravitz, an assistant machine gunner in the Korean War who is credited with saving his platoon by providing cover for retreating troops. He died in the attack. He is the uncle of singer and actor Lenny Kravitz, who attended Tuesday's ceremony.

Obama singled out a childhood friend of the elder Kravitz, Mitchel Libman, for making a mission of upgrading medals for deserving soldiers.

"He and his wife Marilyn spent years writing letters and working with Congress and our military to get this done," Obama said.

Tuesday's mass ceremony, the largest since World War II, was the result of an Army review conducted 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. Of the two dozen, 18 are Latinos.

The Pentagon said the Army 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. The Army also worked with the National Museum of American Jewish Military History, the Jewish War Veterans of the USA and the American GI Forum, the largest Hispanic-American veterans group, to pinpoint potential medal recipients.

During the initial review, investigators found that other soldiers who had received the Distinguished Service Cross appeared to meet the criteria for a Medal of Honor and the directive was expanded to permit them to be considered for the upgraded honor.

1
Text Only
Nation & World
  • news_holtzclaw.jpg Policeman accused of serial sex assault on patrol

    An Oklahoma City police officer arrested on charges of serial sexual assault preyed on women in the rundown neighborhoods he was assigned to patrol — picking some up off the street, pulling others over at traffic stops and in one case taking a woman to a nearby school, according to an affidavit released Friday.

    August 22, 2014 1 Photo

  • news_ferguson.jpg New fear: What happens in Ferguson if no charges?

    Conditions calmed this week in Ferguson after nights of sometimes violent unrest stemming from the fatal shooting of a black 18-year-old by a white police officer. But a delicate and crucial question lingers: What happens if the grand jury now considering the case doesn’t return a charge against the officer?

    August 22, 2014 1 Photo

  • Oklahoma police chief resigns over racial slur repost to Facebook

    A repost on his personal Facebook page of a racially-charged comment by the original poster of a comedy video has forced the police chief of an Oklahoma city to resign his office.

    August 21, 2014

  • US existing home sales rise for 4th straight month

     Sales of existing U.S. homes rose for the fourth straight month in July to their highest level in nearly a year, the latest sign that the housing recovery is picking up after stumbling at the start of the year.

    August 21, 2014

  • Aid group: US doctor who had Ebola has recovered

    At least one of the two American aid workers who were infected with the deadly Ebola virus in Africa has recovered and was to be discharged Thursday from an Atlanta hospital, a spokeswoman for the aid group he was working for said.

    August 21, 2014

  • Holder bringing personal perspective to Ferguson

     Eric Holder talks about the nation's civil rights struggles in a way no previous U.S. attorney general could — by telling his own family story.

    August 20, 2014

  • Senate control could rest with well-funded women

    Control of the Senate could lie in the fortunes of female candidates and the deep-pocketed donors, like former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who are sending piles of cash their way.

    August 20, 2014

  • Iraq forces retake Mosul Dam; militants deny claim

    Boosted by two days of U.S. airstrikes, Iraqi and Kurdish forces on Monday wrested back control of the country's largest dam from Islamic militants, a military spokesman in Baghdad said as fighting was reported to be underway for the rest of the strategic complex.

    August 18, 2014

  • US stocks open higher; Family Dollar jumps

     U.S. stocks are opening higher, following gains in Europe.

    August 18, 2014

  • Federal autopsy ordered in Missouri teen's death

    Attorney General Eric Holder on Sunday ordered a federal medical examiner to perform another autopsy on a black Missouri teenager whose fatal shooting by a white police officer has spurred a week of rancorous and sometimes-violent protests in suburban St. Louis.

    August 17, 2014

More Resources from The Herald Bulletin
AP Video
Furry Roommates: Dorms Allowing Cats and Dogs Chase Rice Defends Bro-Country 'Jersey Shore Massacre' Pokes Fun at MTV Series Raw: Wash. Mudslides Close Roads, Trap Motorists DC's Godfather of Go-Go Honored Ukraine Calls Russian Convoy a 'direct Invasion' Girl Meets Her 'one in the World' Match Coal Gas Boom in China Holds Climate Risks Japan Landslide Rescuers Struggle in Heavy Rain Raw: Severe Floods, Fire Wrecks Indiana Homes Endangered Red Wolves Face Uncertain Future Raw: Russian Aid Convoy Arrives in Ukraine Okla. Policeman Accused of Sex Assaults on Duty Dominican Republic Bans Miley Cyrus Concert Raw: Israeli Air Strike in Gaza Raw: Bodies of MH17 Victims Arrive in Malaysia Attorney: Utah Eatery Had Other Chemical Burn
Parade
Magazine

Click HERE to read all your Parade favorites including Hollywood Wire, Celebrity interviews and photo galleries, Food recipes and cooking tips, Games and lots more.
Hyperlocal Search
Premier Guide
Find a business

Walking Fingers
Maps, Menus, Store hours, Coupons, and more...
Premier Guide
Helium debate
Helium