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Melanie Nathan, Feb 21, 2014.,
President Obama will correct a historical act of discrimination next month when he awards the Medal of Honor, the nation’s highest commendation for combat valor, to 19 Hispanic, Jewish and African-American veterans overlooked previously because of their racial or ethnic backgrounds.
The unusual presentation will culminate a 12-year Pentagon review ordered by Congress into past discrimination in the ranks, and will hold a particular poignancy hosted by the nation’s first African-American president.
The unusual historical accounting began in 2002 when Congress, as part of the defense spending bill, ordered the Pentagon to look into whether Jewish and Hispanic service members had been passed over unfairly for the nation’s highest military honor.
Although the review predates Obama’s tenure, he has made addressing discrimination in the military ranks — including ending the ban on gay and lesbian service members — a priority as commander in chief.