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Medal of Honor recipient gives thanks to current service members

PATRICK AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. -- Medal of Honor recipient, retired Sgt. 1st Class Melvin Morris, 72, a resident of Port St. John, Florida, visited students and staff members of the Defense Equal Opportunity Management Institute, Oct. 28, 2014, during a ceremony held in his honor.

Although he was invited to be honored, he immediately praised the service members in attendance for the work they do while enduring multiple deployments and separations from family.

"What's amazing to me about these Medal of Honor recipients is the humility with which they conduct themselves," Army Sgt. 1st Class Andrew Rhagnanan said, after hearing Morris speak. "They all share that common trait."

The Vietnam War veteran received the Medal of Honor, the nation's highest military decoration during a March 18, 2014 ceremony, held at the White House. He was one of three living recipients. The other 21 received the award posthumously. Together, they would become known as the Valor 24, the single largest group of service members to be awarded the Medal of Honor since World War II.

Sgt. 1st Class Morris received the award from President Barack Obama for his valorous actions Sept. 17, 1969, as a 27-year-old staff sergeant commanding the 3rd Company, 3rd Battalion of the IV Mobile Strike Force near Chi Lang, Vietnam.

More than a decade ago, Congress mandated a review of service records to make sure the heroism of our veterans wasn't overlooked because of prejudice or discrimination. Thousands of war records were reviewed and veterans groups and museums were consulted in order to correct the records of many. It was difficult work, made even harder because sometimes service members felt as if they needed to change their last names to fit in.

That tells a story about our past.

Each of the Valor 24 soldiers was long ago recognized for their gallantry under fire with the Army's second-highest award -- the Distinguished Service Cross.

After 45 years, it was determined that their extraordinary deeds merited the highest recognition. Ultimately, after years of review, these two dozen soldiers -- among them Hispanic, African American and Jewish veterans -- were identified as having earned the Medal of Honor.

This is the length to which America will go to make sure everyone who serves under our proud flag receives the thanks that they deserve.