Hispanic, Jewish vets to get Medal of Honor


McClatchy Washington Bureau


President Obama will award the nation's highest military honor to 24 mainly Hispanic and Jewish veterans of conflicts going back to World War II in a congressionally mandated initiative to overcome past discrimination.

The 2002 National Defense Authorization Act required the Pentagon to conduct a review of personnel records from World War II, the Korean War and the Vietnam War.

The 24 vets named Friday by the White House had previously received the Distinguished Service Cross, the military's second-highest honor. Those awards will be upgraded to the Medal of Honor as a result of the Pentagon review.

In a subsequent amendment to the 2002 law, Congress directed the Pentagon to include in its review vets who were not Hispanic or Jewish, but whose valor may have been insufficiently recognized for other reasons.

One of the 24 new Medal of Honor recipients, Staff Sgt. Melvin Morris, appeared to be African-American, based on a photo provided by the Army (http://www.army.mil/medalofhonor/valor24/recipients/morris/?f=recipient_list).

Congress waived normal time limits that require a Medal of Honor to be bestowed within two or three years of the acts of valor, depending on the branch of military service.

Nothing in the original law said discrimination had to be the cause of the failure to give the 24 new honorees the Medal of Honor, but that was understood by focusing on Hispanic and Jewish vets.

Only three of the 24 recipients are still alive, according to the White House.

In making its announcement, the White House said "several soldiers of neither Jewish nor Hispanic descent" were found worthy of the Medal of Honor, but it did not immediately identify which of the 24 new recipients are Hispanic, Jewish or of a different ethnic or religious background.

The recipients are from nine states, among them California, Florida, Texas and Missouri, plus Puerto Rico and Mexico.

The names of the recipients, with personal details of each honoree:













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