President Barack Obama on Tuesday is awarding the Medal of Honor to 24 Army veterans who were found to have been wrongly denied the nation’s military’s highest award due to prejudice.
"Today, we have the chance to set the record straight," the president said at the White House.
Obama lauded the soldiers as men who "fought and died for a country that did not always see them as equal."
"So we -- each generation -- we keep on striving to live up to our ideals of freedom and equality and to recognize the dignity and patriotism of every person, no matter who they are, what they look like or how they pray," he said.
Only three of those honored are still living. Those veterans, along with the families of the other servicemen receiving the medal posthumously, attended the White House ceremony. The citation of each recipient -- living and deceased -- was read aloud as each medal was presented.
Before awarding the medals, Obama said the event was "70 years in the making" and joked that many did not believe the news when they received a telephone call informing them of the belated honor.
"I could hear, through the phone, he almost passed out," he said of Staff Sergeant Melvin Morris, who served in the Vietnam War.
The belated awards come after Congress ordered a review to determine whether deserving veterans had been passed over for the Medal of Honor due to racism or anti-Semitism.
Eight of the 24 honorees served during the Vietnam War, nine fought in Korea and seven were veterans of World War II.