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Georgia war hero awarded Medal of Honor

Updated: May. 21, 2021 at 6:55 PM EDT
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WASHINGTON (Gray DC) - President Joe Biden awarded the Medal of Honor Friday to a retired Army Ranger who showed incredible acts of valor more than 70 years ago during the Korean War.

Retired Army Colonel Ralph Puckett, Jr., 94, received the nation’s top military honor at a special ceremony at the White House for showing tremendous bravery on the battlefield.

“Today we are hosting a true American hero, and awarding an honor that is long overdue,” said President Joe Biden.

On an especially daring mission during the Korean War, Puckett led a team of Army Rangers and allies across frozen terrain to defend Hill 205 in North Korea. They were outnumbered - over and over, Puckett faced intense enemy fire and rallied his fellow soldiers.

There were numerous waves of attacks from Chinese forces, and Puckett repeatedly left the relative safety of the fox hole to check on his comrades and provide them more ammunition.

After many hours of intense fighting, Puckett sustained serious injuries and told his men to leave him behind. The fellow heroes on the mission that day brought him to safety, refusing to abandon the courageous leader.

“Korea is sometimes called a forgotten war. But those men who were there under Lieutenant Puckett’s command, they’ll never forget that he was right by their side throughout every minute of it,” said Biden.

Puckett earned the Distinguished Service Cross for his actions on November 25-26, 1950, among many other awards over his years of service. He fought in the Korean War and retired from active duty service in 1971.

Puckett’s legendary record of service continued long after he was out of uniform, by mentoring younger generations of soldiers who followed in his footsteps of selflessness and sacrifice.

South Korean President Moon Jae-in also attended and thanked Puckett and his comrades for their courage.

“The alliance forged in blood of heroes has become a linchpin of peace and prosperity on the Korean Peninsula and beyond. Colonel Puckett and his warriors are a link that strongly binds the US and Korea together,” said South Korean President Moon Jae-in.

President Joe Biden says Puckett – a West Point graduate – still visits Fort Benning. Puckett is known as “grandfather of the Rangers””, as he remains committed to helping future war-fighters defend freedom.

Puckett and his family also met the Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, Vice President Kamala Harris, and other top military brass.

This is President Biden’s first Medal of Honor he has awarded since taking office.

Photojournalist/Editor Tyler Smith contributed to this report.

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