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President Obama To Honor Soldiers Who Were Overlooked Due To Racial, Religious Bias

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LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — President Obama will award the nation’s highest military honor — the Medal of Honor — to two dozen Army veterans next month.

The Pentagon says 19 of the 24 men being hailed were overlooked or ignored by history because they were Black, Latino or Jewish.

Of the 24 medals, 21 are being given posthumously. The men being honored fought in WWII, Korea and Vietnam.

KCAL9 has learned several of the honorees are from Southern California.

Rachel Kim, reporting for KCAL9, spoke to many veterans at the USS Iowa who were thrilled that their comrades were finally being recognized.

For some of the men, the recognition will come more than 70 years after their acts of bravery and heroism.

Many of the men have already been honored with the Distinguished Cross, the nation’s second highest military honor.

Next month President Obama will upgrade that honor to the mostly Latino and Jewish servicemen.

“It’s the nation’s highest honor, for bravery,” said Patrick Salazar of the Pacific Battleship Center, “It was great news. It was great news also because the military is sometimes slow to right its wrongs.”

The presentation is the culmination of a 12-year Pentagon study that examined past bias and discrimination in the ranks.

One of the three surviving recipients  is Santiago Erevia of San Antonio, Texas.

He believes he was overlooked in the past simply because he is Hispanic.

“I thought about that, quite a bit,” said Erevia.

The families of two southern California men will accept the awards on their loved ones behalf — Pvt. Joe Gandara of Santa Monica and Sgt. Eduardo Gomez of Los Angeles.

Next month’s ceremony will be the largest Medal of Freedom award ceremony since the closing days of WWII.

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