President Joe Biden awarded the Medal of Honor to a group of Vietnam War veterans, including two Asian Americans, who may have been overlooked due to discrimination.
On Tuesday, Biden gave the highest U.S. military award to Staff Sgt. Edward N. Kaneshiro, Spc. 5 Dennis M. Fujii, Spc. 5 Dwight W. Birdwell and retired Maj. John J. Duffy.
According to the White House, the Medal of Honor is awarded to “members of the armed forces who distinguish themselves conspicuously by gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of their own lives above and beyond the call of duty.”
The recognition represents an upgrade to the Distinguished Service Cross that the men previously received for their actions during the 1964-1973 war.
The awarding comes after Congress ordered a review into the military service of Asian Americans, Native Americans and Pacific Islanders left unrecognized because of prejudice.
Biden highlighted during the ceremony that these men “risked everything… to defend our nation and our values.” However, “not every service member has received the full recognition they deserve.”
“Today we’re setting the record straight,” Biden said. “We’re upgrading the awards of four soldiers who performed acts of incredible heroism during the Vietnam conflict.”
Kaneshiro received his Medal of Honor posthumously as he died three months after being honored for a successful 1966 mission that involved defending against an attack by North Vietnamese troops. Kaneshiro’s family members accepted the award on his behalf.
The White House noted how Kaneshiro “destroyed one enemy group with rifle fire and two others with grenades, which enabled the orderly extrication and reorganization of the platoon and ultimately led to a successful withdrawal from the village.”
Fujii, a native Hawaiian, was given the Medal of Honor for his actions during a 1971 helicopter evacuation that resulted in a crash.
While waiting for another rescue attempt, Fujii spent the night and the next day providing first aid to injured South Vietnamese troops. During this period, Fujii “repeatedly exposed himself to hostile fire as he left the security of his entrenchment to better observe enemy troop positions and to direct air strikes against them until an American helicopter could attempt to airlift him from the area.”
Birdwell, a Native American, was honored for leading his unit through a deadly ambush by Vietnamese troops at the outset of the Tet Offensive in 1968. Meanwhile, Duffy was honored for defending a firebase while facing a 24-hour bombardment in 1972.
Featured Image via PBS Newshour