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Obama to award Medal of Honor to 24 Army veterans

JIM KUHNHENN, Associated Press
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U.S. Army Medal of Honor (AP Photo)

U.S. Army Medal of Honor (AP Photo)

WASHINGTON (AP) — 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.

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.

These photos released by the U.S. Army show, from left, Spec. 4 Santiago J. Erevia, Sgt. 1st Class Jose Rodela and Staff Sgt. Melvin Morris. (AP Photo/U.S. Army)

These photos released by the U.S. Army show, from left, Spec. 4 Santiago J. Erevia, Sgt. 1st Class Jose Rodela and Staff Sgt. Melvin Morris. (AP Photo/U.S. Army)

Of the 24, eight fought in the Vietnam War, nine in the Korean War and seven in World War II.

The three living recipients are all veterans of the Vietnam War:

— Spec. 4 Santiago J. Erevia of San Antonio, for courage during a search and clear mission near Tam Ky, South Vietnam, on May 21, 1969.

— Staff Sgt. Melvin Morris of Cocoa, Fla., for courageous actions during combat operations in the vicinity of Chi Lang, South Vietnam, on Sept 17, 1969.

— Sgt. 1st Class Jose Rodela of San Antonio for courage during combat operations in Phuoc Long province in South Vietnam on Sept. 1, 1969.

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List of Medal of Honor recipients: http://www.army.mil/medalofhonor/valor24/

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AP National Security Writer Robert Burns contributed to this report.

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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