President Joe Biden awarded the Medal of Honor – the highest honor the US military can bestow on service personnel – to a quartet of Vietnam War veterans on Tuesday, upgrading previous honors they already received.
Mr. Biden awarded the medal to Sgt. Edward N. 1964-1973 United States War.
The medals were awarded following a Congressional-ordered review of military service to Asian Americans, Native Americans, and Pacific Islanders who may have been overlooked due to discrimination.
“They have stood in the way of danger, and have risked everything … to defend our nation and our values,” Mr. Biden said at the start of the East Chamber ceremony on Tuesday morning. “However, not everyone on the service has received the full recognition they deserve. Today we are putting things right. We are upgrading awards for four soldiers who did amazing heroic deeds during the Vietnam War.”
He added that although half a century had passed since their heroic deeds, “time has not diminished their incredible courage, selflessness in putting the lives of others first and the gratitude we owe them as a nation.”
Sergeant Kaneshiro, who was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor, died three months after the incident for which he was honored, an attack by North Vietnamese forces on his platoon during the 1966 mission.
According to the White House, Kaneshiro “destroyed an enemy group with rifle fire and two others with grenades, allowing the platoon’s orderly exit and reorganization and eventually leading to a successful withdrawal from the village.”
Speaking to his family members who accepted the award on his behalf, Biden said Kaneshiro’s relatives “sacrificed so much for our country.”
“I know that no award can make up for losing your father and not being there when you grew up. But I hope that today you will feel some pride and comfort in knowing that his bravery is finally receiving the full recognition that she has always deserved.”
Birdwell, who will continue from his military service to serve as a judge in the Cherokee Nation Supreme Court, was honored for his actions during the January 1968 offensive by Vietnamese forces at the start of the Tet Offensive.
Incapacitated by enemy fire, Mr. Birdwell’s tank commander moved his commander to a safe place and began firing all of his tank’s weapons at the enemy, then removed the tank and continued to fight until he was hit in the face and torso.
Biden said it “took decades” for Mr. Birdwell to get the recognition he deserves after his then commanding officer, General Glenn Otis, realized that Mr. Birdwell had “not received the full honor he had,” but noted that General Otis “made sure the record was corrected and documented.” Beardwell’s entire actions to make this day possible.”
Mr. Fuji was awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions during the 1971 air medical evacuation, during which his helicopter crashed.
According to the White House, he “repeatedly exposed himself to hostile fire as he left the security of his fortification to better monitor enemy forces’ positions and direct air strikes against them so that a US helicopter could attempt to airlift him from the area” during the period between the collapse and another rescue attempt.
Biden said the upgraded awards were possible because Congress ordered a review of cases in which “Asian Americans, Native Americans, and Pacific Islanders” were awarded the Distinguished Service Medal during the Korea and Vietnam Wars, “to make sure we properly respected the contributions of Asian Americans to the Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders.” and their service that they have provided over the years.”
He noted that a similar effort had resulted in the awarding of the Medal of Honor to 22 Asian, Native American and Pacific Islander veterans of World War II, including the late Senator Daniel Inoue of Hawaii.