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U.S. honors 24 minority veterans from World War II, Korea and Vietnam

by Susan Heavey, Reuters

March 18, 2014 | 6:24 pm

President Barack Obama greets guests after presenting the Medal of Honor to 24 U.S. Army veterans for heroic action in combat during World War II, Korea and Vietnam on March 18. Photo by Larry Downing/Reuters

President Barack Obama greets guests after presenting the Medal of Honor to 24 U.S. Army veterans for heroic action in combat during World War II, Korea and Vietnam on March 18. Photo by Larry Downing/Reuters

Two dozen U.S. Army veterans received the country's top military honor at the White House on Tuesday for acts of bravery in World War II, Korea and Vietnam as part of an effort to recognize those whose service may have been ignored because of their race or religion.

President Barack Obama awarded the medals recognizing the 24 Hispanic, African-American and Jewish-Americans veterans - the largest group of soldiers to be honored for the award since World War Two.

Just three of the men honored are still living and were on hand to accept the blue-ribboned award from the president. The others either died in combat or later of natural causes. One veteran is still classified as missing, Obama said.

The review was part of a years-long effort to honor service members despite past discrimination, Obama said.

"Here in America, we confront our imperfections and face the sometimes painful past, including the truth that some of these soldiers fought and died for a country that did not always see them as equal," he said.

"As one family member said, this is long overdue," Obama told the audience of wives, brothers, sons and daughters who came to accept the awards in a ceremony at the White House.

The awards followed a 2002 law authorizing a review of war records for Americans who are Jewish or Hispanic. As part of the effort, records of other service members who were overlooked have also emerged.

The three living veterans on hand to accept their award were Melvin Morris of Florida and Jose Rodela and Santiago Erevia of Texas.

The ceremony drew singer Lenny Kravitz, whose uncle Leonard Kravitz was honored posthumously for his service in Korea in 1951.

For a list of those honored, visit whitehouse.gov.

Reporting by Susan Heavey; Editing by Peter Cooney and Cynthia Osterman

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