By Jonathan Marrero, Senior Manager of Digital Communications, NCLR, United States Air Force Veteran
It may have been decades since they have served in the military, but it is never too late to properly honor those service members who fought heroically for our country. Late last week, President Obama announced that 24 veterans, the majority of whom are Hispanic and Jewish, will receive a Medal of Honor, the nation’s highest military award, for their services in World War II, the Korean War and the Vietnam War.
This is more than just an unusually large class of recipients, though. All of the honorees had previously received the Distinguished Service Cross, the nation’s second highest military award. However, in 2002, Congress called for a review of veteran war records for Hispanic Americans and Jewish Americans who served in those wars to ensure that they were not denied the highest recognition due to prejudice. A decade later, we will finally, as a country, be able to give these 24 valiant men their well-deserved recognition.
Hispanics have served with remarkable valor and courage – even at the cost of their lives – in our nation’s military throughout American history dating back to the Revolutionary War. They currently make up more than 11percent of the active-duty military forces and more than 16 percent of new recruits.
While long overdue, it is still critical and still incumbent upon us as a nation to recognize the contributions of our veterans, especially when it comes to our country’s highest military award, the Congressional Medal of Honor. It’s too easy to focus on rooting out discrimination and prejudice in the present, without adequately reflecting on injustices that may have occurred in the past. As Staff Sgt. Melvin Morris, who his among those that will receive a Medal of Honor, explains, “there are a lot of heroes that are missing” that deserve to be rewarded for their work. By reviewing candidates who may have been overlooked or marginalized, we are sending a clear message that their bravery and extraordinary service is not forgotten.
On March 18, we look forward to celebrating these 24 heroes, as the president awards them and their families with this well-deserved, incredible achievement. Justice can never come soon enough.