There was a famous face in the crowd when President Obama awarded 24 long overdue Medals of Honor—many of them posthumous—to Jewish and Hispanic veterans this week. Rocker Lenny Kravitz attended the ceremony, at which his uncle, Leonard M. Kravitz, after whom he was named, was honored posthumously for his service in the Korean War.
Private First Class Leonard M. Kravitz was one of several Jewish veterans honored at Tuesday’s ceremony, decades after their service, following a more than 10-year congressional review of veterans whose ethnicities likely caused their wartime contributions to be overlooked for the nation’s highest honor. Kravitz, who was born in Brooklyn, N.Y. in 1931, died in 1951 while serving in the Korean War, and was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross, the nation’s second-highest honor.
According to the Daily Beast, Kravitz’s childhood friend Mitch Libman spent the last 50 years campaigning to have Kravitz—and the other men who he realized had been passed over for discriminatory reasons—recognized with the award. Lipman’s work paid off when, in 2012, he received a phone call from President Obama letting him know that Kravitz would finally be given the Medal of Honor.
The U.S. Army website described Kravitz’s service:
Kravitz is being recognized for his actions in Yangpyong, Korea, March 6-7, 1951. While occupying defensive positions, Kravitz’s unit was overrun by enemy combatants and forced to withdraw. Kravitz voluntarily remained at a machine-gun position to provide suppressive fire for the retreating troops. This forced the enemy to concentrate their attack on his own position. Kravitz ultimately did not survive the attack, but his actions saved his entire platoon.
“It made my life worth something,” Libman told reporters after the event.
Stephanie Butnick is deputy editor of Tablet Magazine and a host of the Unorthodox podcast.