WASHINGTON, D.C. (WRBL) – A Columbus resident now holds the nation’s highest military honor for valour.
71 years after a battle on a frozen Korean hilltop 60 miles from the Chinese border, President Joe Biden awarded Ret. Col. Ralph Puckett the Medal of Honor. South Korean President Moon Jae-in was in attendance.
The crowd for the award was smaller than usual due to the coronavirus pandemic, but Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin — like Puckett a south Georgia native — was in the room. Biden used the opportunity to reflect on the long-standing political and military relationship between the United States and South Korea.
“Korea is sometimes called the Forgotten War,” Biden said. “But those men who were there under Lt. Puckett’s command they will never forget his bravery. They will never forget he was right by their side throughout every minute of it. People of the Republic of Korea haven’t forgotten, as evidenced that the Prime Minister of Korea is here for this ceremony. I doubt this has ever happened before. I can’t say that for certain. But I doubt it’s happened before. Americans, all Americans like Ralph Puckett, joined in their fight.”
For then 23-year-old Lt. Puckett and the 8th Army Rangers that fight brought them face to face with an overwhelming Chinese force just two days after Thanksgiving in 1950. Puckett suffered serious injuries and was awarded the military’s second highest honor, the Distinguished Service Cross. That award was upgraded to the Medal of Honor.
“I understand your first response to all us hosting this event was, ‘why all the fuss? Why all the fuss? Can’t they just mail it to me,'” Biden said. “I was going to make a joke about going to the Post Office, but I decided not to do that. Col. Puckett, after 70 years rather than mail it to you, I would have walked it to you. Your lifetime of service to our nation I think deserves a little bit of fuss.”
One of the highlights of the ceremony was Col. Puckett pushing away his walker so he could stand on his own while the citation was read and the medal awarded. At 94, Puckett remains Ranger tough.