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Obama to award Medal of Honor to 24 Army veterans

By Jim Kuhnhenn / Associated Press

LAST UPDATED: 06:48 p.m. HST, Feb 21, 2014

WASHINGTON » Seeking to correct potential acts of bias spanning three wars, President Barack Obama will award the Medal of Honor to 24 Army veterans following a congressionally mandated review to ensure that eligible recipients were not bypassed due to prejudice.

The unusual mass ceremony, scheduled for March 18, will honor veterans, most of Hispanic or Jewish heritage, who had already been recognized with the Distinguished Service Cross, the nation's second-highest military award. Only three of the recipients are living.

"I never really did worry about decorations," said one of those being honored, Melvin Morris of Cocoa, Fla., who was commended for courageous actions while a staff sergeant during combat operations on Sept. 17, 1969, in the vicinity of Chi Lang, South Vietnam.

Morris, who is black, said in an interview that it never occurred to him that his race might have prevented him from receiving the Medal of Honor. He said it was a huge surprise when the Army contacted him last May about the review and then arranged for a call from Obama.

"I fell to my knees. I was shocked," Morris said. "President Obama said he was sorry this didn't happen before. He said this should have been done 44 years ago."

The other living recipients are Spc. 4 Santiago J. Erevia of San Antonio, cited for courage during a search and clear mission near Tam Ky, South Vietnam, on May 21, 1969; and Sgt. 1st Class Jose Rodela of San Antonio, cited for courage during combat operations in Phuoc Long province, South Vietnam, on Sept. 1, 1969.

The Army conducted the 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.

The posthumous recipients are:

— Sgt. Candelario Garcia, born in Corsicana, Texas, for courageous actions during combat operations in Lai Khe, South Vietnam, on Dec. 8, 1968.

— Spc. 4 Leonard L. Alvarado, born in Bakersfield, Calif., died during combat operations in Phuoc Long province, South Vietnam, on Aug. 12, 1969.

— Staff Sgt. Felix M. Conde-Falcon, born in Juncos, Puerto Rico, killed during combat operations in Ap Tan Hoa, South Vietnam, on April 4, 1969.

— Spc. 4 Ardie R. Copas of Fort Pierce, Fla. killed during combat operations near Ph Romeas Hek, Cambodia, on May 12, 1970.

— Spc. 4 Jesus S. Duran of San Bernardino, Calif., for courageous actions during combat operations in South Vietnam on April 10, 1969.

— Cpl. Joe R. Baldonado, born in Colorado, killed during combat operations in Kangdong, North Korea, on Nov. 25, 1950.

— Cpl. Victor H. Espinoza of El Paso, Texas, for courageous actions during combat operations in Chorwon, North Korea, on Aug. 1, 1952.

— Sgt. Eduardo C. Gomez, born in Los Angeles, for courageous actions during combat operations in Tabu-dong, South Korea, on Sept. 3, 1950.

-- Pfc. Leonard M. Kravitz, born in New York City, killed during combat operations in Yangpyong, South Korea, on March 6-7, 1951.

— Master Sgt. Juan E. Negron of Bayamon, Puerto Rico, for courageous actions during combat operations in Kalma-Eri, North Korea, on April 28, 1951.

— Master Sgt. Mike C. Pena, born in Newgulf, Texas, killed in action during combat operations in Waegwan, South Korea, on Sept. 4, 1950.

— Pvt. Demensio Rivera, born in Cabo Rojo, Puerto Rico, for courageous actions during combat operations in Changyong-ni, South Korea, on May 23, 1951.

— Pvt. Miguel A. Vera, born in Puerto Rico, killed during combat operations in Chorwon, North Korea, on Sept. 21, 1952.

— Sgt. Jack Weinstein of Saint Francis, Kan. for courageous actions during combat operations in Kumsong, South Korea, on Oct. 19, 1951.

— Pvt. Pedro Cano, born in La Morita, Mexico, for courageous actions during combat operations in Schevenhutte, Germany, on Dec. 3, 1944.

— Pvt. Joe Gandara, born in Santa Monica, Calif., for courageous actions during combat operations in Amfreville, France, on June 9, 1944.

— Pfc. Salvador J. Lara, of Riverside, Calif., for courageous actions during combat operations in Aprilia, Italy, May 27-28, 1944.

— Sgt. William F. Leonard, of Lockport, N.J., for courageous actions during combat operations near St. Die, France, on Nov. 7, 1944.

-- Staff Sgt. Manuel V. Mendoza, born in Miami, Ariz., for courageous actions during combat operations on Mount Battaglia, Italy, on Oct. 4, 1944.

— Sgt. Alfred B. Nietzel, born in New York City, for courageous actions during combat operations in Heistern, Germany, on Nov. 18, 1944.

— 1st Lt. Donald K. Schwab, born Hooper, Neb., for courageous actions during combat operations near Lure, France, on Sept. 17, 1944.

AP National Security Writer Robert Burns and writer David Fischer in Miami contributed to this report.

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scooters wrote:
Oh, so now the MOH is based on your the color of your skin. BS..just another Pres. Hussein's taking care of his own...
on February 21,2014 | 03:10PM
kahu808 wrote:
If they deserve it, they should receive it. Your comments show your ignorance of the vetting process required to upgrade the DSC to the MOH.
on February 21,2014 | 03:42PM
entrkn wrote:
Thank you kahu808.
on February 21,2014 | 06:36PM
scooters wrote:
kahu808: Never said that they didn't deserve the MOH, just don't base it on the color of a person's skin. Period.
on February 21,2014 | 08:57PM
kahu808 wrote:
Once again, if you were familiar with the process required, you would know that the awards are based on the actions of these men. The Congressional Medal of Honor was never bestowed except upon incontrovertible evidence of conspicuous gallantry, period.
on February 21,2014 | 09:15PM
Ronin006 wrote:
The correct official name for the award is Medal of Honor. There is no "Congressional" in the name.
on February 22,2014 | 05:59PM
serious wrote:
It should not be based on color and it normally isn't but to go back and single out race and ethnics for the Honor is not right. Next round, let's upgrade all the gays!! In order to receive the Honor you also need two witnesses--that's impossible, that's the reason there are statue of limitations.
on February 22,2014 | 05:40AM
RetiredWorking wrote:
scooters, the white soldiers who deserved the MOH received theirs. The soldiers of color and Jewish race were discriminated against and denied their medals. Now is their time, thanks to President Obama.
on February 22,2014 | 07:56AM
Ronin006 wrote:
ALLEGEDLY discriminated against based on race. There is not a shred of evidence to prove it.
on February 22,2014 | 05:58PM
scooters wrote:
Negative! If they deserved the MOH fine, but don't base it on the color of the mans skin. It's exactly what Obama has done and such has tarnished the MOH. If you bleeding heart liberals and fans of Obama, can't see this then you're the ones who are ignorant.
on February 21,2014 | 09:40PM
kahu808 wrote:
Wast time.
on February 21,2014 | 10:54PM
kolohepalu wrote:
The whole point is that they were originally denied based on the color of their skin. Doesn't matter- any story with "Obama" or "minorities" involved is sure to get a negative reaction from right wingers- oh, but they're not prejudiced.
on February 22,2014 | 05:27AM
kekelaward wrote:
Prove that the denial was based upon prejudice.
on February 22,2014 | 11:05AM
Ronin006 wrote:
ALLEGEDLY denied based on race. There is not a shred of evidence to prove it.
on February 22,2014 | 05:57PM
Ronin006 wrote:
The vetting was done when the acts of valor were originally approved, in some cases 70 years ago. This makes a mockery out of the Medal of Honor. The Army conducted the review under a directive from Congress in the 2002 National Defense Authorization Act. Excuse me, but that was 12 years ago. Why weren’t Asians included in the review and why did it take so long to announce the results?
on February 22,2014 | 08:42AM
kahu808 wrote:
In some cases, the officers making the recommendation at the time knew that the MOH would be denied, so they recommended them for the next highest award, the DSC. The Asian/Pacific Islander review was authorized in 1996 and medals awarded in 2000.
on February 22,2014 | 03:09PM
Ronin006 wrote:
When will the review be done to upgrade DSCs to MOHs for German-Americans, French-Americans, Irish-Americans, Scottish-Americans, Scandinavian-Americans, English-Americans, Polish-Americans, Italian-Americans and other Euro-Americas? Oh, wait. They are not yet minorities.
on February 22,2014 | 04:57PM
kahu808 wrote:
If you truly want to answer your own question, do the research. It's out there.
on February 23,2014 | 12:13AM
kolohepalu wrote:
Anything with the President's name in it, count on a wingnut to spin something negative out of it. Sad little people.
on February 21,2014 | 07:29PM
eoe wrote:
Sad, sad person, so blinded by hate.
on February 22,2014 | 02:49AM
sailfish1 wrote:
If they reviewed the records of Jewish Americans and Hispanics, how did they find Melvin Morris who is black? Why just Jewish American and Hispanic? What about Asians, Blacks, American Indians, and every other minority who were, and still are, discriminated against in America?
on February 21,2014 | 06:36PM
kahu808 wrote:
There was a previous review for African Americans, Asians, and Pacific Islanders and MOHs were awarded. 8 American Indians were awarded the MOH. 88 African-Americans have been awarded the MOH starting in the Civil War. None were awarded the MOH in WWII until a review was conducted and 7 were awarded in 1992.
on February 21,2014 | 07:31PM
scooters wrote:
So what is an African-American? How can you be both? Either your an African or an American. This is what divides us. Should I can myself an German-American,an European-American? No, I'm an American period.
on February 21,2014 | 08:56PM
kahu808 wrote:
Your original contention was that the president was "taking care of his own" when this was in fact a congressional mandated review. You also say that " the MOH is based on your the color of your skin." The review is in fact a blind review where the name, race, and other details are not revealed. The panel usually has a MOH recipient sitting in review.
on February 21,2014 | 09:31PM
kolohepalu wrote:
Plenty of people identify with their ancestry, particularly in this state. We are American citizens by birth but live in a place that was exploited and stolen by American interests, so we don't tend to be so enthusiastic as you.
on February 22,2014 | 05:32AM
RetiredWorking wrote:
scooters, call yourself what you want. Af-Ams, Asians, Native Americans, Native Hawaiians, etc. or Americans.People call themselves what they want, when they want.
on February 22,2014 | 08:00AM
hanalei395 wrote:
If he's not Hawaiian, NEVER a "Native Hawaiian", not even just "Hawaiian".
on February 22,2014 | 10:23AM
kekelaward wrote:
Thanks Rep Hanohano.
on February 22,2014 | 11:09AM
hanalei395 wrote:
Thanks to the Hawai'i State Constitution.
on February 22,2014 | 11:17AM
hanalei395 wrote:
Bill Clinton awarded WW ll heroes of the 442nd Battalion , which included Daniel Inouye, with the Medal of Honor. Obama awarded the Medal of Honor posthumously to Anthony Kaho'ohanohano of Kaua'i. He was killed in the Korean War.
on February 21,2014 | 07:51PM
kahu808 wrote:
Kaho'ohanohano was from Maui hanalei. Nice display at the Army Museum at Ft. DeRussy.
on February 21,2014 | 11:17PM
hanalei395 wrote:
OK, thanks.
on February 22,2014 | 10:27AM
kekelaward wrote:
Many others from the 442, who did not return, deserved the MOH before Inouye, who had been a US Senator decades before being awarded the MOH by Clinton.
on February 22,2014 | 11:08AM
hanalei395 wrote:
Those who did not return, or had passed, were awarded the MoH posthumously.
on February 22,2014 | 11:25AM
kekelaward wrote:
Not all of them.
on February 22,2014 | 12:38PM
Ronin006 wrote:
For the record, Anthony Kaho'ohanohano’s upgrade of the DSC to MOH was not done by any review directed by Congress. His DSC award was reviewed numerous times over a period of more than 20 years at the request of Patsy Mink when she was in Congress and by Senator Akaka. It was reviewed and denied when DSCs of all Asians and Pacific Islanders were reviewed in the 1990s. A request for upgrade was made each time a new Secretary of the Army or Defense was appointed and each time the upgrade was denied because it did not meet the strict standards for award of the MOH. The basic problem was that there was not one witness to Kaho'ohanohano’s heroic act. The recommendation for the award of his DSC was based entirely on circumstantial evidence. However, that did not stop Senator Akaka in his quest to have the DSC upgraded to the MOH. He did it through the back door by attaching an amendment or rider to a Defense appropriations bill along with hundreds of other riders. Thus, when President Obama signed the appropriations bill, Kaho'ohanohano’s upgrade to the MOH and all riders attached to it also were approved.
on February 22,2014 | 05:42PM
kahu808 wrote:
Two men who died one day apart in Chup-a Ri, both 17th Inf. Regiment, 7th ID under very similar circumstances and acts of valor. One received the MOH IN 1953 and the other the DSC in 1952. Look up their photos and look into their actions.
on February 24,2014 | 03:02PM
Surfer_Dude wrote:
I have no problem with any of this, but why just the Army? How come the Navy wasn't mandated to review their Navy Cross recipients so that deserving Sailors and Marines might be in the same category. Also, what about the Air Force?
on February 21,2014 | 10:00PM
primowarrior wrote:
All branches of the military were mandated to reassess their records back in 2002, but only some of those from the Army were deemed as worthy of an upgrade.
on February 22,2014 | 12:01AM
serious wrote:
I think the other services might have used higher standards which they all should--this is not a lottery.
on February 22,2014 | 08:26AM
kahu808 wrote:
Dude, there were no blacks in front-line duty with the Marines in WWII. The Air Force did not exist but blacks served in the Army Air Corps (Tuskeegee Airmen).
on February 24,2014 | 03:17PM
GorillaSmith wrote:
It's great to see these heroes finally get the honor they deserve. Let's enjoy the moment and not get hung up on cynicism.
on February 22,2014 | 05:50AM
RetiredWorking wrote:
Gotilla, totally agree.
on February 22,2014 | 08:00AM
retire wrote:
Hey it's merit badge time!
on February 22,2014 | 06:38AM
Maneki_Neko wrote:
Every single one of these guys deserves our greatest respect. Period, end of story.
on February 22,2014 | 07:54AM
kekelaward wrote:
Everyone who served honorable deserves our respect. Where ever they were originally from.
on February 22,2014 | 11:10AM
Maneki_Neko wrote:
on February 22,2014 | 01:16PM
kahu808 wrote:
From his DSC Citation: On that date, Private KAHOOHANOHANO was in charge of a machine-gun squad supporting the defensive positions of Company F when a numerically superior enemy force launched a fierce attack. Because of the overwhelming numbers of the enemy, it was necessary for the friendly troops to execute a limited withdrawal. As the men fell back, he ordered his squad to take up more tenable positions and provide covering fire for the friendly force. Then, although painfully wounded in the shoulder during the initial enemy assault, he gathered a supply of grenades and ammunition and returned to his original position to face the enemy alone. As the hostile troops concentrated their strength against his emplacement in an effort to overrun it, Private KAHOOHANOHANO fought fiercely and courageously, delivering deadly accurate fire into the ranks of the onrushing enemy. When his ammunition was depleted, he engaged the enemy in hand-to-hand combat until he was killed. His heroic stand so inspired his comrades that they launched a counterattack that completely repulse the enemy. Coming upon Private KAHOOHANOHANO's position, the friendly troops found eleven enemy soldiers lying dead before it and two in the emplacement itself, beaten to death with an entrenching shovel.
on February 23,2014 | 12:27AM
kahu808 wrote:
What higher standard when you can't even get in. Major General Thomas Holcomb, Commandant of the Marines, who lived in Delaware and Washington, DC in his early years and attended private schools, said that African Americans had no right to serve as Marines. He said, "If it were a question of having a Marine Corps of 5,000 whites or 250,000 "Negroes", I would rather have the whites.
on February 24,2014 | 03:57PM
kahu808 wrote:
Can't even be considered if they don't let you in, so standards have nothing to do with it.
on February 24,2014 | 03:58PM
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