President Barack Obama moved to right old wrongs by belatedly awarding the Medal of Honor to 24 Army veterans who served during World War II, Korea and Vietnam but didn't get the awards because of prejudice, including a Santa Clara man who served in the Army and died nearly 60 years ago.
Just three of those being honored during Tuesday's ceremony at the White House are still alive, all of them combat veterans of Vietnam. Joe Baldonado, who lived in Santa Clara and died in 1950, is one of the vets who will be awarded with the honor posthumously. He was a light weapons infantryman/parachutist during the Korean War, according to the U.S. Army. His brother accepted the award on his behalf.
The honors are being awarded after Congress ordered a review to determine whether service members of Jewish or Hispanic heritage or others had been wrongly denied the Medal of Honor because of their heritage. All of those being honored had previously been awarded the Distinguished Service Cross, the nation's second-highest military award. Baldonado was of Latino descent.
Overall, eight of the 24 fought in Vietnam, nine in Korea and seven in World War II.
According to the Military Times Hall of Valor, Baldonado was a Corporal credited with "extraordinary heroism" while serving as a machine-gunner with Company B, 1st Battalion, 187th Airborne Regimental Combat Team, 11th Airborne Division on Nov. 25, 1950 in Kang-deng, Korea. When his platoon was attacked, he was in an "exposed position," according to the Army, but he cut down "wave after waver of enemy troops" even as they targeted attacks on him. A grenade landed near him, killing him instantly.
Baldonado's acts of bravery were described in a book, "Disaster in Korea: The Chinese Confront MacArthur."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.