President Joe Biden speaks at the commencement for the United States Coast Guard Academy in New London, Conn., Wednesda. (AP-Yonhap)
WASHINGTON -- US President Joe Biden will award the highest military medal to a Korean War veteran this week in a ceremony that will also be attended by his visiting South Korean counterpart, Moon Jae-in, the White House said Wednesday.
"President Joseph R. Biden, Jr., will award the Medal of Honor to Colonel Ralph Puckett, Jr., United States Army, Retired, for conspicuous gallantry during the Korean War. President Moon Jae-in of the Republic of Korea will join this ceremony," it said in a press release, referring to South Korea by its official name.
Moon and Biden are set to hold their first in-person summit at the White House on Friday.
The White House said Puckett, then a first lieutenant, distinguished himself by bravery above and beyond the call of duty while serving as commander of an 8th US Army Ranger company in a fierce battle against North Koreans on Nov. 25-26, 1950.
He exposed himself to enemy fire by running across an open area three times, allowing his unit to locate and destroy enemy positions, it said.
Overnight, the unit had come under waves of enemy attacks. Puckett, despite an injury in the first wave, continued to motivate his men while repeatedly abandoning "positions of relative safety" to check on his unit members and distribute ammunition.
After six waves of attacks and with serious injuries, Puckett ordered his men leave him behind and evacuate, an order his troops refused, according to the White House.
Puckett retired from active duty in 1971, but is still very active in military affairs. He lives in Columbus, Georgia, with his wife of 68 years.
The Medal of Honor "is awarded to members of the Armed Forces who distinguish themselves conspicuously by gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of their own lives above and beyond the call of duty," it said.
More than 1.7 million American soldiers fought in the 1950-53 Korean War. Nearly 37,000 of them were killed in action while thousands others still remain missing from the war.