For some minority veterans, it’s taken acts of Congress to get recognized.

The Medal of Honor is the nation’s highest honor for valor awarded to servicemembers who risk their lives during military operations against opposing forces.

The 2022 and 2023 National Defense Authorization Acts gave officials until Oct. 1, 2024, to complete the review process that determines if at least five service members are eligible for the Medal of Honor.

According to the 2022 and 2023 defense bills, cases being reviewed include:

  • Pfc. Charles Johnson, a Black soldier part of the 15th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Infantry Division, was killed June 12, 1953, during the Korean War.
  • Pfc. Wataru Nakamura, a Japanese soldier part of the 3rd Battalion, 2nd Infantry Division, was killed on May 18, 1951, during the Korean War.
  • Pvt. Bruno Orig, a Filipino soldier part of the 2nd Battalion, 2nd Infantry Division, was killed on Feb. 15, 1951, during the Korean War.
  • Cpl. Fred McGee, a Black soldier part of the 17th Infantry Regiment who rescued fellow soldiers under enemy fire on June 16, 1952, in Korea.
  • Cpl. Fred McGee, a Black soldier part of the 17th Infantry Regiment who rescued fellow soldiers under enemy fire on June 16, 1952, in Korea.
  • Master Sgt. David Halbruner, a Special Forces soldier who exposed himself to enemy fire to help unarmed American civilians during a Sept. 11-12, 2012, operation in Benghazi, Libya, according to his citation.
  • Spc. 5 Dennis Fujii, an Asian American soldier part of the 61st Medical Battalion, and Staff Sgt. Edward Kaneshiro, a Japanese soldier part of the 1st Cavalry Division were awarded the Medal of Honor last year for their roles during the Vietnam War.

According to the Congressional Medal Society, of the 3,515 recipients, 93 are Black; 59 are Hispanic or Latino; 35 are Asian or Pacific Islander; 33 are Native American; and 18 are Jewish.

Push to recognize Black soldiers

Retired Col. Paris Davis, a Special Forces veteran, is one of the Black soldiers who’s been recommended for the Medal of Honor.

In a 2021 opinion letter to USA Today, then-acting Secretary of Defense Christopher Miller directed the Pentagon to resubmit Davis’ “lost” nomination packets.

The Military Times Hall of Valor medal database

According to the New York Times review of an after-action report, Davis was deployed to Vietnam in June 1965 when his unit was pinned down by enemy fire.

Davis rescued a wounded weapons specialist and was wounded attempting to rescue a master sergeant before successfully rescuing the sergeant and being wounded again.

Davis refused to be evacuated in order to rescue his medic.

A team sergeant recommended Paris for the Medal of Honor.

“When his commander and the Army determined his 1965 packet disappeared into the bureaucracy, a subsequent recreated packet also was ‘lost’ in 1969,” Miller wrote.

According to military.com, Davis’ nomination was approved in November by Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Acts of Congress

On Oct. 21, 1987, Rep. Joseph DioGuardi, of New York, and Rep. Mickey Leland, of, Texas, co-sponsored a bill that sought the Medal of Honor for Pfc. Johnson, but the bill received an unfavorable recommendation from the Army at the time.

In 1993, the Army commissioned a study with Shaw University in Raleigh “to determine if there was a racial disparity in the way Medal of Honor recipients were selected.”

The study found that the medal was not given to Black soldiers who served during World War II which led to President Bill Clinton granting the medal to seven Black soldiers in 1997.

A similar study introduced into legislation by Sen. Daniel Akaka led to 22 Asian Pacific American World War II veterans receiving the medal in 2000.

In 2002, Congress requested a review of military records of Hispanic, Black and Jewish veterans who served during World War II and the Korean and Vietnam Wars; and by 2014, President Barak Obama recognized 24 of those veterans.

Fort Bragg soldiers included Staff Sgt. Felix Conde-Falcon, a paratrooper killed on April 4, 1969, in Vietnam; Pvt. Joe Gandara, a paratrooper killed June 9, 1944, in France; Sgt. 1st Class Jose Rodela, a Special Forces soldier wounded by enemy fire Sept. 1, 1969, in Vietnam while recovering a wounded comrade; and Staff Sgt. Melvin Morris, a Special Forces soldier who was wounded three times while leading a team to recover a fallen commander near an enemy bunker on Sept. 17, 1969, in Vietnam.

In August 2021, Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin issued a directive for the secretaries of the military departments to review cross medals awarded to Black and Native American veterans to determine if the veterans’ actions “warrant the award of the Medal of Honor.”

The reviews are due August 2026.




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