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24 veterans to receive Medal of Honor decades late

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The White House will right a wrong with next month's by honoring 24 war veterans at a Medal of Honor award ceremony. (Source: MGN Online) The White House will right a wrong with next month's by honoring 24 war veterans at a Medal of Honor award ceremony. (Source: MGN Online)

(CNN) Sergeant First Class Melvin Morris was just 19 years old when he became a Green Beret, volunteering to go to Vietnam.

In 1969, under heavy fire, hit multiple times, bleeding, he rescued dead and wounded troops. The Army says he showed "determination possessed by few men" and his ability to lead "has rarely been equaled."

Today, at 72 years old, with his wife of 51 years Mary, the pride, the dignity and now a wrong will be made right.

Morris is one of 24 veterans, who decades late, will receive the nation's highest military distinction, the Medal of Honor. It's a roll call of bravery and heroism about and beyond the call of duty for men who served in World War II, Korea and Vietnam.

Only Morris and two other Vietnam veterans are still living.

In 2002, Congress ordered a review of Jewish and Hispanic veterans' war records, to find who may have suffered discrimination and not been awarded the honors they deserve. Potential African Americans were also found, and all are now being recognized.

"I had heard rumors to the fact that there were certain people that people thought should have received the Medal of Honor," said Retired Col. Harvey Barnum of the U.S. Marines.

Col. Barnum received his Medal of Honor in 1967. His unit also under intense fire, with complete disregard for his safety, he moved to save others. Now, he has one message for the Vietnam survivors.

"I look forward to putting my arms around them and calling them brother and saying welcome home," Col. Barnum said.

Two other living Vietnam veterans will receive the medal. Radio operator Santiago Erevia's was under fire all day on May 21, 1969. In total peril, he assaulted a line of enemy bunkers, throwing hand grenades and firing his M-16. He came home to work for the U.S. Postal Service for 32 years. His son, Roland, served three tours in Iraq.

Sergeant First Class Jose Rodela's battalion was under such heavy fire on Sept. 1, 1969, it suffered 42 casualties in minutes. Army records say the unit "was on the brink of panic" when Rodela stepped in, physically pushing men to fight, even as the unit was still under fire.

Today, he is in frail health.

Of the recipients who have passed away, some died in action in Europe, Korea and Vietnam. But some like PFC William Leonard of New York, who fought in France during World War II, came home to live out their lives.

Leonard worked in the auto industry and as a butcher. He died five days before his 72nd birthday, sitting in his backyard listening to a New York Yankees game on the radio.

Copyright 2014 Department of Defense, U.S. Army, U.S. Marines, U.S. Navy via CNN. All rights reserved.

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