President Barack Obama will award the Medal of Honor to 24 Army veterans found worthy after a review of those who may have been overlooked because of their racial or ethnic backgrounds.
The decision to honor the veterans–including 19 who are Hispanic, Jewish, and African-American–with the nation’s highest military commendation follows a Congress-mandated review to ensure that eligible recipients were not bypassed because of prejudice.
Three of the recipients are still living, having served in the Vietnam War. All of the veterans had been recognized with the Distinguished Service Cross, the nation’s second highest military award, from service during Vietnam, the Korean War, and World War II.
All but one of the recipients are enlisted men, from privates to master sergeants. One is a World War II first lieutenant.
The White House ceremony will be held on March 18.
The Army conducted the 12-year review 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.
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.
Of the 24, eight fought in the Vietnam War, nine in the Korean War, and seven in World War II.