Posted on May 12, 2021

Getting a Medal of Honor Upgrade Could Be a Tall Order

Mike Gooding, 13News Now, May 7, 2021

Just 2.6 percent of the more than 3,500 Medals of Honor awarded to U.S. troops since 1863 have gone to African Americans.

The vast majority of those decorations were bestowed prior to World War I. Between 1861 and 1918, the Medal was awarded nearly 3,000 times.

Still, the math is pretty hard to accept for modern-day Black veterans.

“We know it was unfair, so what do we do now?” asked Vietnam War Army veteran Jim Cornish of Newport News, Virginia. “How do we tell what’s going to happen now? I mean, you can’t get it back.”

The decades since Vietnam are long gone, of course. And after 54 years, so, too — in all likelihood — are members of Cornish’s immediate chain of command who could testify about specific acts of valor.

He received a Silver Star for “exceptionally valorous action” in 1967. He believes he should have gotten a Medal of Honor but was denied because of the color of his skin.

However, getting a medal upgrade is a pretty tall order. Army policy does not allow for self-nomination and under 10 U.S. Code, Section 1130, there are very specific rules regarding who can.

Army Medal of Honor Public Affairs Sergeant First Class Anthony Hewitt said, “In cases more than three years old, by law, the recommendation must be endorsed by a member of Congress and forwarded to the Service Secretary for consideration.


He added: “The Army may revisit a previous award decision if there is an indication of procedural error, impropriety, or if the recommender presents new, substantive and material information which fundamentally changes the original award recommendation.”


House Armed Services Committee Vice-Chair Rep. Elaine Luria (D-Virginia, 2nd District) suggests that legislative action may be needed.


Cornish said change can’t come soon enough.