President Joe Biden awarded the Medal of Honor to a 94-year-old Korean War veteran.
“Today we are hosting a true American hero and awarding an honor that is long overdue, more than 70 years overdue,” Biden said during Friday’s ceremony.
The Medal of Honor, which is the country’s highest military recognition, was awarded to retired Army Colonel Ralph Puckett Jr. for his “acts of gallantry and intrepidity above and beyond the call of duty, while serving as the Commander, 8th U.S. Army Ranger Company during the period of November 25, and 26, 1950, in Korea,” per the White House release.
Biden also said:
“Even now — even now — you can find him out at Fort Benning, cheering on the Rangers and letting them know he is there with them. Over his career he mentored countless young people. He’s always believed that all that mattered to be a Ranger was if you had the guts and the brains. That’s the standard he applied when he picked his first Ranger unit in Korea.”
Watch the video below:
— CBS News (@CBSNews) May 21, 2021
As the White House writes of Puckett:
“As his unit commenced a daylight attack on Hill 205, the enemy directed mortar, machine gun, and small arms fire against the advancing force. To obtain supporting fire, First Lieutenant Puckett mounted the closest tank, exposing himself to the deadly enemy fire. Leaping from the tank, he shouted words of encouragement to his men and began to lead the Rangers in the attack. Almost immediately, enemy fire threatened the success of the attack by pinning down one platoon. Leaving the safety of his position and with full knowledge of the danger, First Lieutenant Puckett intentionally ran across an open area three times to draw enemy fire, thereby allowing the Rangers to locate and destroy the enemy positions and to seize Hill 205.”
The White House continues to note that there was a counterattack launched overnight. Puckett was wounded by grenade fragments in the first attack, “but he refused evacuation and continually directed artillery support that decimated attacking enemy formations, repeatedly abandoned positions of relative safety to make his way from foxhole to foxhole to check the company’s perimeter, and distributed ammunition amongst the Rangers.” He was injured also by “two enemy mortar rounds” during the sixth attack.
“Knowing his men were in a precarious situation,” Puckett ordered the Rangers to leave him and evacuate. However, they “refused the order and staged an effort to retrieve him from the foxhole while still under harassing fire from the enemy,” and did so successfully.
“First Lieutenant Puckett’s extraordinary heroism and selflessness above and beyond the call of duty were in keeping with the highest traditions of military service.”
At the ceremony, Biden also mentioned something Puckett had apparently said, “I understand that your first response to us hosting this event was to ask ‘Why all the fuss … can’t they just mail it to me?’” drawing laughter from the crowd.
Puckett is also a member of the U.S. Army Ranger Hall of Fame and retired from active duty in 1971.
Pres. Biden at the Medal of Honor ceremony for Col. Ralph Puckett: "I understand that your first response to us hosting this event was to ask 'why all the fuss… can't they just mail it to me?'" https://t.co/B4zEKH0O2P pic.twitter.com/io49jsbqAz
— ABC News (@ABC) May 21, 2021
This was the first Medal of Honor that Biden has awarded as president.
It comes during his meeting with South Korean President Moon Jae-in on Friday. The event was the first time a foreign leader participated in a Medal of Honor ceremony, according to NBC News.
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