WASHINGTON, D.C. (WRBL) — Three weeks after receiving a phone call from President Joe Biden informing him he will receive the nation’s highest military honor, Col. Ralph Puckett will get that award Friday in a White House ceremony.
It was announced Wednesday that the 94-year-old Puckett will be awarded the Medal of Honor Friday afternoon in the East Room of the White House by Biden. The President of South Korea, Moon Jae-in, will also be in attendance.
WRBL News 3 and the Washington Post reported that Puckett would receive the Medal of Honor shortly after the president’s phone call on April 30.
It will be a small ceremony attended by family, military leaders and close personal friends.
Puckett is receiving the medal for his actions in November 1950 as a 23-year-old lieutenant charged with command of a small Ranger company fighting the Chinese on a hilltop in North Korea. Puckett was severely wounded in the battle, but still able to assert command as his Rangers were being overrun by fives waves of the enemy.
Puckett was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross, the second-highest honor for valor, for his actions. That is being upgraded to the Medal of Honor.
“A lot of soldiers who go unrecognized who have done stuff better than anything I have done,” he said in an exclusive interview with News 3 prior to the call from Biden. “There are a lot of people out there… I am pleased I received the medal. My soldiers who earned it. I try to give credit where credit… they did the work. They did the fighting. Two of them carried me off the battlefield. They are the ones who should get the credit.”
There are four surviving soldiers from that battle. One of them, 92-year-old Sgt. Merle Simpson, is expected to be at the ceremony.
Retired Lt. Col. And Ranger historian John Lock is the one who worked 18 years for the Army to upgrade Puckett’s Distinguished Service Cross. He will be at the ceremony.
Puckett is known as “The Ranger” in the Army Special Operations community. After retiring in Columbus with his wife of 68 years, Jean, he was named Honorary Colonel of the 75th Ranger Regiment, headquartered at Fort Benning.
Puckett was honored for valor in Korea and Vietnam. When he receives the Medal of Honor, he will become one of the nation’s most decorated warriors.
Retired Gen. Stanley McChrystal, a former 75th regimental commander, knows Puckett well.
“I wish this had happened earlier,” McChrystal told News 3. “But the next best time to do it is now. And I think it’s important that we reach back and say this is something that should and could have been recognized earlier, but it’s appropriate we honor it now.”
Retired Col. Greg Camp has worked closely with Puckett over the years. Camp played a leading role in the establishment of the National Infantry Museum, where Puckett is honored with a display.
“None of this citation surprises any of us that know him today,” Camp said. “It wasn’t a moment of courage. It wasn’t something he did in the heat of the battle. It’s who he is.”