President Obama has announced that 24 former U.S. soldiers will be awarded the Medal of Honor—many of them posthumously—at a ceremony in March. While these veterans of World War II, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War had all previously earned the Distinguished Service Cross, the nation’s second-highest honor, many of them had been overlooked for the nation’s highest honor due to longstanding institutionalized discrimination. Acknowledging and honoring these Jewish, Hispanic, and African American veterans is an historic step, and a significant milestone in recognizing the contributions of minority servicemen in our nation’s armed services.
According to the announcement, “Congressional review and the 2002 Defense Authorization Act prompted a review of Jewish American and Hispanic American veteran war records from WWII, the Korean War and the Vietnam War.”
The Anti-Defamation League was quick to praise the announcement, calling it an effort “to ensure that those deserving the Medal of Honor were not denied because of prejudice.”
Among the posthumous honorees for courageous action during World War II are Sergeant William F. Leonard, First Lieutenant Donald K. Schwab, and Sergeant Alfred B. Nietzel. The posthumous honorees for their courageous actions during the Korean War include Jack Weinstein and Private First Class Leonard M. Kravitz.
“The United States Army is proud of these Soldiers and glad to see their professionalism, service and sacrifice being recognized again – in full view of a new generation,” the announcement concluded. As are we.
Stephanie Butnick is chief strategy officer of Tablet Magazine, co-founder of Tablet Studios, and a host of the Unorthodox podcast.