March 19, 2014
By Lisa Ferdinando, ARNEWS
WASHINGTON (Army News Service, March 19, 2014) -- The newest Medal of Honor recipients -- 24 veterans who received the honor decades after their extraordinary heroism in three wars -- have been inducted into the Pentagon Hall of Heroes.
The veterans from World War II, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War were honored at a ceremony at the Pentagon, today, one day after receiving the nation's highest award for valor in a White House ceremony.
"We are here this morning to celebrate the heroism of 24 selfless individuals -- 24 Soldiers whose acts of gallantry in battle merit our highest recognition," said Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel at the event in the Pentagon auditorium.
"We are also here to correct an injustice of history -- to help right 24 wrongs that should have never occurred," he said.
More than a decade ago, Congress mandated a review of Distinguished Service Cross awards to ensure that heroism wasn't overlooked due to prejudice or discrimination.
During that review, the 24 Soldiers -- who are Hispanic, Jewish, and African-American -- were identified as deserving the medal.
Three of the recipients are living: Santiago Erevia, Melvin Morris, and Jose Rodela. They fought in the Vietnam War.
"This induction serves as the largest single induction of Medal of Honor honorees since World War II," said Secretary of the Army John McHugh. "Twenty-four amazing Soldiers who will finally take their rightful place in our Hall of Heroes."
Each of their stories alone is "truly breathtaking," said McHugh.
"But taken together, they really form an incredible volume of history -- one that details the service, the sacrifice, and most of all, the courage of the American Soldier," he said.
The nation is great because of the acts of these men who sacrificed so much for their country, said Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ray Odierno.
"It's an honor for me to stand here today wearing this uniform, representing all Soldiers past and present in honoring our comrades," he said.
"In the faces of our recipients and their relatives, we see the faces of 24 heroes," he said.
The honorees represent a diverse Army and nation, he said. They have strengthened and defended the nation and shaped its history.
"Our nation and our Army are strong because in every war, in every generation, men and women, citizens and immigrants, have raised their right hand to defend the Constitution of the United States," he said.
Each of the 24 heroes is different, whether their rank, age, unit, war, or ethnic or religious background, he said.
"But they all bound together as Soldiers," Odierno said.
They were "ordinary men who, under the most chaotic and difficult conditions, displayed extraordinary courage at the risk of their own lives," he said.
"It is because of men like them, through the generations, that I'm so proud," Odierno said.
At the event, each of the 24 Medal of Honor citations was read as the recipient or their representative stood reverently on stage. The recipient or representative -- spouse, child, or other relative -- was then presented with an encased Medal of Honor flag.
The Hall of Heroes is a special room in the Pentagon that contains the name of each Medal of Honor recipient.
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