Korean War Veteran Honored With Medal of Honor for His Acts of Service 70 Years Later

by Matthew Wilson

The Medal of Honor is the highest honor a military serviceman can receive. A Korean War veteran earned the high honor for acts of bravery he formed nearly 70 years ago.

In a ceremony on May 21, President Joe Biden awarded retired Army Colonel Ralph Puckett the Medal of Honor for his service during the Korean War. Puckett nearly sacrificed his life to protect his fellow soldiers during a firefight. South Korean President Moon Jae-in also attended the event, the first time a foreign leader was involved in the ceremony. According to NBC, Jae-in called Puckett a “true hero of the Korean War.”

One of the soldiers that served under Puckett reflected on his bravery. Merle Simpson said Puckett always lead by example.

“You made a mistake under Ralph Puckett you — you did 50 pushups. But he’d get down and do 50 pushups,” Simpson said. “If there ever was (a hero), he’s one,” Simpson said. “To me, he’s a hero. I couldn’t understand how a man could be wounded and want to be left, but he did, he wanted his men to get off that hill. I think he understood that they would all be killed if we didn’t get out of there.”

Korean War Veteran Almost Sacrificed His Life

Ralph Puckett was an Army Ranger when he and his 60 men got ambushed by hundreds of soldiers. During the surprise assault, Puckett mounted a tank to provide cover fire. The action exposed him to enemy fire. But Puckett just shouted encouragement at his soldiers while returning fire.

Later during the assault, Puckett decided to draw enemy fire – not once, not twice, but three times. He allowed himself to be a diversion while his fellow soldiers spotted the enemy. Thanks to his actions, the Army Rangers manage to take the hill. But later that night, Puckett further put his bravery on display.

The enemy launched a counterstrike against the Army Rangers. As a result, a grenade exploded near Puckett severely injuring him. But the soldier shrugged off the injury, directing artillery fire and resupplying ammo between fox holes.

Eventually, Puckett realized they were overwhelmed, and he would slow his fellow soldiers down. He ordered his soldiers to leave him behind to save themselves. But that was one order that his soldiers couldn’t follow. They carried Puckett to safety as well.

By 1971, Puckett retired from the military. He became the National Programs Coordinator of Outward Bound, Inc. The military veteran has lived a relatively quiet life, at home with his wife and three children. Now, 94-years-old Puckett used a wheelchair to get around. But he stood proudly to receive his Medal of Honor.