Retired Army Col. Ralph Puckett has waited more than 70 years to receive the nations highest award for combat valor and making him one of the most decorated soldiers in US history.
“I understand that your first response to us hosting this event was to ask ‘why all the fuss … can’t they just mail it to me?'” President Joe Biden quipped at Friday’s presentation ceremony. “I’m incredibly proud to give Col. Ralph Puckett’s acts of valor the full recognition they have always deserved.”
Puckett in a legend, his service record includes two Distinguished Service Cross and two Silver Stars while in theater in Vietnam. He earned five Purple Hearts and two Bronze Stars with “V” for valor.
On November 25, 1950, then-1st Lt. Ralph Puckett Jr used himself as bait by drawing machine gun fire so his Army Rangers could spot their emplacements. Later that evening he led his 51 man company in defending an ambush from hundreds of Chinese soldiers.
Puckett continually left the safety of his foxhole to locate the enemy and direct artillery fire, sometimes calling in “danger close” fire missions to keep the Chinese at bay.
Puckett was wounded several times and eventually was unable to move. Knowing their position was about to be overrun he ordered his men to fall back and leave him so he wouldn’t slow them down. However, privates Billy G. Walls and David L. Pollock, ignored the order and carried him to safety.
“This is an honor that was long overdue,” Biden said. “More than 70 years overdue.”
What made this ceremony so special was that it was the first one ever attended by a foreign world leader. South Korean President Moon Jae-in was in attendance and highlighted the alliance between the two countries.
“Col. Puckett is a true hero of the Korean War,” Moon said in remarks during the ceremony. “Without the sacrifice of veterans including Col. Puckett, [the] freedom and democracy we enjoy today couldn’t have blossomed in Korea.”
“I’m certainly honored,” Puckett said. “The people who earned that medal are the Rangers who did more than I asked. I think it’s important for them. They’re the ones who did the job; they did the fighting and suffered.”