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NEWS | March 12, 2014

Three to be awarded Medal of Honor have National Guard ties

By Tech. Sgt. David Eichaker National Guard Bureau

ARLINGTON, Va., - President Barack Obama is scheduled to present 24 Army veterans with the Medal of Honor in one of the largest Medal of Honor ceremonies in history at the White House on March 18.

Three recipients are former members of National Guard units.

Pfc. Salvado Lara, Master Sgt. Juan E. Negron and Sgt. 1st Class Melvin Morris will have their Distinguished Service Crosses upgraded after a review of minority veteran war records determined they were denied the nation's highest military award because of their race.

Lara, of Riverside, Calif., served in World War II with the Oklahoma National Guard's 45th Infantry Division and will be recognized for his actions in Aprilia, Italy, in May 1944.

While engaged in fighting, he aggressively led his rifle squad in neutralizing multiple enemy strong points and inflicted large numbers of casualties on the enemy. The next morning, as his company resumed the attack, Lara sustained a severe leg wound, but did not stop to receive first aid. Lara continued his exemplary performance until he captured his objective.

Negron was born in Corozal, Puerto Rico, and during his 23-year military career he served with the Puerto Rico Army National Guard's 65th Infantry Regiment during the Korean War.

Negron distinguished himself on April 28, 1951, for actions near Kalma-Eri, Korea.

Negron held the most vulnerable position on his company's exposed right flank after an enemy force had overrun a section of the line. He held the position throughout the night, accurately hurling hand grenades at short range when hostile troops approached his position.

Following the war, Negron returned to the U.S. and remained on active duty, retiring at the rank of master sergeant.

Morris began his military service by enlisting in the Oklahoma Army National Guard in 1959 and later transitioned to the active component, where he served in the 5th Special Forces Group.

On Sept. 17, 1969, while with the 3rd Company, 3rd Battalion, IV Mobile Strike Force near Chi Lang, Vietnam, Morris led an advance across enemy lines to retrieve a fallen comrade and single-handedly destroyed an enemy force that had pinned down his battalion. Morris was shot three times as he ran back toward friendly lines with the American casualties, but did not stop until he reached safety.

Morris, who volunteered twice for deployments to Vietnam, will be one of three living recipients to be recognized during the award ceremony.