APPLE VALLEY (CBSLA.com) — An Apple Valley man accepted the Congressional Medal of Honor at the White House Tuesday on behalf of his brother who was racially overlooked.
Charles Baldonado said his 20-year-old brother, Joe, died in battle during the Korean War.
Joe, who was killed instantly by grenades used by advancing enemy troops, was given the second-highest military award after his death.
Baldonado, however, said he never understood why Joe was nominated, but was never awarded, the highest military honor.
“Nobody really said why he was given the Distinguished Service Cross instead of the Congressional Medal of Honor,” he said. “I thought he was deprived of something he should have gotten.”
This past June, Baldonado got the news he’s been waiting on for decades.
“[President Barack Obama] told me that I was gonna get the medal for my brother and he said it’s about time,” Baldonado said.
On Tuesday, Obama presented the Medal of Honor to 24 Army veterans who were overlooked because of their race or religion.
“Some of these soldiers fought and died for a country that did not always see them as equal,” Obama said.
The presentation came after Congress in 2002 ordered a review of service records to determine whether Latino and Jewish veterans were denied the highest honor because of discrimination.
“They found out what happened and they rectified the problem. I just got overjoyed with it,” Baldonado said.
As the recipients were added to the Pentagon’s Hall of Heroes, Baldonado stood proudly on behalf of his brother.
“He’s been my hero for a long, long time. He still is. He’ll never stop being a hero for me,” he said.