President Obama has taken a bold move in awarding the Medal of Honor this year, choosing to include 19 veterans who were previously overlooked based on their racial or ethnic backgrounds. One honoree, Staff Sergeant Melvin Morris, is a black man.
According to the White House’s official announcement, Morris will receive the honor for his “courageous” actions while serving in Vietnam.
Morris was commanding a strike force in the southern part of the country, when his group came under attack and a fellow commander was killed. According to reports, despite being shot three times, Morris recovered the body of his fallen comrade and was even able to retrieve an important map before it fell into enemy hands.
“I fell to my knees, I was shocked,” Morris, 72, told the Associated Press. “President Obama said he was sorry this didn’t happen before. He said this should have been done 44 years ago.”
In 2002, Congress called for a review of war records from World War II, the Korean War and the Vietnam War to ensure that deserving the Medal of Honor were not denied because of prejudice. The act worked to reveal a number of deserving candidates. Of the 3,464 Medals of Honor awarded, just 88 have been given to 87 individual black Americans. William Carney was the first in 1900.
President Obama will award the Medal of Honor to 24 Army veterans on March 18th, 2014, including to Morris and the 19 veterans who were previously snubbed.