President Obama honored two dozen neglected heroes Tuesday.
They had names like Garcia, Morris and Weinstein — Hispanic, African-American and Jewish soldiers from decades past who, according to a congressionally ordered investigation, had been denied the Medal of Honor because of their race, creed or color.
"This ceremony is 70 years in the making," Obama said as he presented the long-delayed Medals of Honor to 24 soldiers from World War II and the Korean and Vietnam wars.
Of the two dozen recipients, eight fought in Vietnam, nine in Korea and seven in World War II.
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Only three recipients are still living. Obama pointed out that "10 never came home" from battle; one Korean War soldier has never been found.
While "no nation is perfect," Obama said, "here in America, we confront our imperfections and face a sometimes painful past — including the truth that some of these soldiers fought and died for a country that did not always see them as equal."
The courage of these soldiers took many forms, Obama pointed out: Charging machine gun nests, confronting and climbing aboard tanks, engaging in hand-to-hand combat and carrying wounded comrades to safety even while under fire.
In their times, the newest Medal of Honor recipients did earn the Distinguished Service Cross, the nation's second-highest military award. But Obama said their actions "merited the highest recognition. And today we have the chance to set the record straight."
The honorees came from all walks of life and all parts of the country, from Brooklyn to Nebraska to Puerto Rico. One recipient: the late Leonard M. Kravitz, uncle of musician Lenny Kravitz.
It was the single largest group of servicemembers to receive Medals of Honor at the same time since World War II, Obama said: "As one family member has said, this is long overdue."
The living recipients all served in Vietnam:
Then-Spc. Santiago J. Erevia, for his courageous actions while serving as a radio telephone operator during a search and clear mission near Tam Ky.
Staff Sgt. Melvin Morris for his courageous actions while serving as commander of a strike force during combat operations against an armed enemy in the vicinity of Chi Lang, Sept. 17, 1969.
Sgt. 1st Class Jose Rodela for his courageous actions while serving as a special forces company commander during combat operations against an armed enemy in Phuoc Long Province, Sept. 1, 1969.
Posthumous Medal of Honor recipients.
From the Vietnam War:
Sgt. Candelario Garcia, acting team leader during combat operations in Lai Khe, Dec. 8, 1968.
Spc. Leonard L. Alvarado, rifleman, Phuoc Long Province, Aug. 12, 1969.
Staff Sgt. Felix M. Conde-Falcon, an acting platoon leader during combat operations in Ap Tan Hoa, April 4, 1969.
Spc. Ardie R. Copas, machine gunner during combat operations near Ph Romeas Hek, Cambodia, May 12, 1970.
Spc. Jesus S. Duran, acting M-60 machine gunner during combat operations in Vietnam, April 10, 1969.
From the Korean War:
Cpl. Joe R. Baldonado, acting machine gunner during combat operations in Kangdong, Nov. 25, 1950.
Cpl. Victor H. Espinoza, acting rifleman during combat operations in Chorwon, Aug. 1, 1952.
Sgt. Eduardo C. Gomez for courageous actions during combat in Tabu-dong, Sept. 3, 1950.
Pfc. Leonard M. Kravitz, assistant machine gunner during combat operations in Yangpyong, March 6 and 7, 1951.
Master Sgt. Juan E. Negron for actions during combat operations in Kalma-Eri, April 28, 1951.
Master Sgt. Mike C. Pena for actions during combat operations in Waegwan, Sept. 4, 1950.
Pvt. Demensio Rivera, an automatic rifleman, Changyong-ni, May 23, 1951.
Pvt. Miguel A. Vera, automatic rifleman, Chorwon, Sept. 21, 1952.
Sgt. Jack Weinstein, platoon leader, Kumsong, Oct. 19, 1951.
World War II:
Pvt. Pedro Cano, Schevenhutte, Germany, Dec. 3, 1944.
Pvt. Joe Gandara, Amfreville, France, June 9, 1944.
Pfc. Salvador J. Lara, squad leader, Aprilia, Italy, May 27 and 28, 1944.
Sgt. William F. Leonard, squad leader, near St. Die, France, Nov. 7, 1944.
Staff Sgt. Manuel V. Mendoza, platoon sergeant, Mount Battaglia, Italy, Oct. 4, 1944.
Sgt. Alfred B. Nietzel, section leader, Heistern, Germany, Nov. 18, 1944.
1st Lt. Donald K. Schwab, company commander, near Lure, France, Sept. 17, 1944.