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Mark Alexander / May 24, 2021

Long Overdue: Ralph Puckett, Medal of Honor

For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life…

Last week, I wrote about the unexpected death of our friend, Medal of Honor recipient Chuck Hagemeister. His death reduced the ranks of living recipients to 65. I noted that the word “hero” is grossly overused today, but as it relates to Medal of Honor recipients, it is understated.

Two days later, 94-year old Georgia native, Col. Ralph Puckett, joined the ranks of recipients, brining the number up to 66. Our nation’s highest military honor is awarded for valor – for conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action at the risk of their lives “above and beyond the call of duty.”

In November of 1950, leading his 8th Army Ranger Company on Hill 205 in Korea a mere 60 miles from the Chinese border, then 1st Lt. Ralph Puckett willfully subjected himself to endless enemy machine gun fields of fire. He used himself as a target so his Army Rangers could spot the enemy machine-gunner locations in order to direct artillery fire. Many of those artillery attacks were “danger close,” meaning he was calling fire coordinates that were very close to his own position. He was wounded several times and finally unable to move, but he ordered his men to fall back and not risk retrieving him. Privates Billy G. Walls and David L. Pollock ignored his order, much to Puckett’s objection, and carried him to safety.

Puckett originally received the Distinguished Service Cross for his actions, and while upgrading an award is rare, in recent years that Distinguished Service Cross was reconsidered based on his heroic actions.

You can read more about those actions and his full Medal of Honor citation on the Army’s website — including his longtime service as an “honorary colonel” for the 75th Ranger Regiment. It is worth the read.

Responding in typical humility, Col. 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.”

Thank you, Col. Puckett.

Semper Vigilans Fortis Paratus et Fidelis
Pro Deo et Libertate — 1776

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