CalVet to Hold Ceremony for Californians Among Medal of Honor Winners

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By Debbie Gregory.

On December 28, 2001, the FY 2002 Defense Authorization Act was signed by then-president George W. Bush, after approval by Congress on October 17. Among the many sections of that law that specifies the DOD’s budget for that fiscal year, was Section 552. From the document, it reads:

“Section 552- Requires the Secretary of each military department to review the records of certain Jewish American or Spanish [Hispanic] American war Veterans to determine whether such Veteran should be awarded the Medal of Honor, and to recommend to the President those Veterans who should receive such award. Waives time limitations concerning such award.”

It has long been believed that a lot of non-white service members were passed up for the nation’s highest military honor due to the wide-spread racial and ethnic prejudices of the eras. Many of these soldiers were instead awarded the U.S. military’s second highest award, the Distinguished Service Cross. For years, Veterans and family members of Veterans and soldiers killed in action during WWII, the Korean War and the Vietnam War have petitioned the government to have their own, their comrades’, and their family members’ awards upgraded to the Medal of Honor. These petitions are what sparked the reviews provided for by the FY 2002 Defense Authorization Act.

During the Army’s review of their personnel files, researchers found more individuals who were deserving of the award than just Jewish and Hispanic soldiers. In February, President Obama announced that 24 soldiers were found to be covered by Section 552 of the FY 2002 Defense Authorization Act. All but three of the medals were awarded posthumously.

The California Department of Veterans Affairs (CalVet) announced that they will hold a special ceremony for five Californian Medal of Honor recipients on Tuesday, May 27th,  on the West Steps of California’s Capitol Building in Sacramento. CalVet listed the following Medal of Honor recipients:

Specialist Four Leonard L. Alvarado- received the Medal of Honor posthumously for his courageous actions while serving during combat operations against an armed enemy in Phuoc Long Province, Republic of Vietnam, on Aug. 12, 1969. Alvarado was a Rifleman with Company D, 2d Battalion, 12th Cavalry, 1st Cavalry Division (Airmobile).

Specialist Four Jesus S. Duran- received the Medal of Honor posthumously for his courageous actions while serving during combat operations against an armed enemy in the Republic of Vietnam, on April 10, 1969. Duran was an M-60 machine gunner in Company E, 2d Battalion, 5th Cavalry, 1st Cavalry Division (Airmobile).

Sergeant Eduardo C. Gomez- received the Medal of Honor posthumously for his courageous actions during combat operations against an armed enemy in Tabu-dong, Korea, on Sept. 3, 1950. Gomez served with Company I, 8th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Cavalry Division.

Private Joe Gandara- received the Medal of Honor posthumously for his courageous actions while serving during combat operations against an armed enemy in Amfreville, France, on June 9, 1944. Gandara served with Company D, 2d Battalion, 507th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 17th Airborne Division.

Private First Class Salvador J. Lara received the Medal of Honor posthumously for his courageous actions during combat operations against an armed enemy in Aprilia, Italy, on May 27 and 28, 1944. Lara was the Squad Leader of a rifle squad with 2d Platoon, Company L, 180th Infantry, 45th Infantry Division.