Biden awards first Medal of Honor to Korean War veteran, features South Korea's Moon Jae-in as special guest

AP Photo/Evan Vucci

Joe Biden will award a Korean War veteran the Medal of Honor today in a ceremony at the White House. This is the first Medal of Honor awarded by Biden since he took office. A notable guest will be present – South Korean President Moon Jae-in.

It’s all a bit of overkill but this is very much on-brand for Biden and his administration. This month is Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month. On Thursday Biden signed an anti-Asian hate crimes bill into law and rushed to deliver remarks in a bizarre and erratic manner. He began to yell during the speech that hateful behavior toward AAPI people has to stop, causing concern by people watching the speech.

Ralph Puckett Jr., 94, a retired Army colonel and Korean War hero from Georgia is the Medal of Honor recipient. President Moon Jae-in will add cache to the ceremony as a foreign head of state. The White House wanted to do the ceremony at the White House instead of via Zoom. Puckett’s age and the fact that coronavirus restrictions have been lifted played a role in the decision-making. It is not a coincidence that the White House put together the ceremony to coincide with Moon’s visit to Washington. There are no coincidences in politics. Biden wants to make a point of showcasing the commitment between the U.S. and South Korea.

But it’s not by accident that Moon will be present. The ceremony could just as easily have been Wednesday or next week.

Instead, the occasion gives Biden a way to showcase the longstanding U.S. commitment to South Korea’s security as well as U.S. veterans, including hundreds of thousands of surviving Korean War vets now in their 90s.

It also gives Moon a way to show South Koreans and Americans his own relationship with Biden, and the endurance of the alliance and historical connection.
Last November, then-President-elect Biden made a surprise visit to the Korean War Memorial in Philadelphia for a wreath-laying on Veterans Day.

Biden has come under fire from the identity box-checking progressives in his party for not appointing an AAPI member to his cabinet, especially since he made such a big deal of declaring his cabinet looks like America. Every nominee checked at least one box whether it was for gender, sexual preference, or ethnicity. Most are not particularly qualified for their positions but the important thing is that identity politics is alive and well in the Biden administration. Biden was shamed into appointing an AAPI adviser last month. You can’t make this stuff up.

Puckett’s war story is certainly one of a war hero. It is nice that a Korean War veteran is being recognized, often the Korean War seems to be overshadowed by World War II and the Vietnam war.

First Lieutenant Puckett mounted the closest tank, exposing himself to the deadly enemy fire. Leaping from the tank, he shouted words of encouragement to his men and began to lead the Rangers in the attack.

Almost immediately, enemy fire threatened the success of the attack by pinning down one platoon. Leaving the safety of his position and with full knowledge of the danger, First Lieutenant Puckett intentionally ran across an open area three times to draw enemy fire, thereby allowing the Rangers to locate and destroy the enemy positions and to seize Hill 205.

… The enemy launched a counterattack which lasted four hours. … Five human wave attacks by a battalion strength enemy element were repulsed. … First Lieutenant Puckett was wounded by grenade fragments, but he refused evacuation. … Two enemy mortar rounds landed in his foxhole, inflicting grievous wounds. … Puckett commanded the Rangers to leave him behind. … The Rangers refused the order. … They moved to the bottom of the hill, where First Lieutenant Puckett called for devastating artillery fire.

Puckett also served in Vietnam. He retired from active duty in 1971. He used his leadership skills after leaving military service by serving as national programs coordinator for Outward Bound Inc. He also established the leadership development program Discovery Inc.

Kamala Harris is half Indian so perhaps she will participate, too. Puckett certainly sounds like a worthy recipient. There is no mistaking the political angle in this ceremony, though. Biden is hellbent to convince Americans that he is respected on the world stage and his decades spent in politics – especially on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee – make him an experienced world leader. That remains to be seen. So far all we have from Joe Biden is choosing a Russian pipeline over an American one and he is trying to take credit for the ceasefire between Israel and Palestine without giving proper credit to Egypt. Oh yeah, he’s also willing to provide more pallets of cash to his Iranian pals as his former boss, President Obama, did.