February 26, 2024

United States President Joe Biden speaks in the South Court Auditorium in Washington, DC, USA on Wednesday, May 12, 2021.

Oliver Contreras | Sipa | Bloomberg | Getty Images

President Joe Biden will present the Medal of Honor for the first time since taking office on Friday, honoring a US Korean War veteran for his “showy bravery,” the White House said.

South Korean President Moon Jae-In, who is visiting the White House that day to speak to Biden, is due to attend the ceremony, according to the White House.

The recipient of the country’s highest military award, Colonel Ralph Puckett Jr., is a Columbus, Georgia resident who served in the Korean War and the Vietnam War, the White House said in a press release.

Puckett “was distinguished by acts of bravery and fearlessness that went beyond duty,” he said in Korea in November 1950 as he led a unit of Army Rangers into a harrowing daylight raid on an enemy hill, the White House said.

“To get supportive fire, Lieutenant Puckett mounted the nearest tank and exposed himself to deadly enemy fire,” the White House said. “He jumped out of the tank, shouted words of encouragement to his men, and began leading the Rangers into the attack.”

When enemy fire stuck a train, Puckett left the relative safety of his position and “purposely ran three times over an open area to draw enemy fire, which allowed the Rangers to locate and destroy enemy positions and capture Hill 205.”

“During the night the enemy launched a counterattack that lasted four hours,” the news release said, adding that Puckett’s leadership consistently motivated the Rangers.

“As a result, five human wave attacks were repulsed by a battalion-strength enemy element,” the White House said.

Puckett was injured by shell fragments during the first of these waves, “but he refused to evacuate and continuously directed artillery support, decimating attacking enemy formations, repeatedly relinquishing positions of relative safety in order to find his way from foxhole to foxhole and the scope of the company to check ammunition distributed among the rangers, “said the White House.

In the sixth wave of attacks, two mortar shells landed in Puckett’s foxhole and caused “serious wounds,” the press release said. “Lieutenant Puckett ordered the Rangers to leave him behind and evacuate the area. The Rangers, feeling obliged to help, refused the order and attempted to get him out of the foxhole while they were still under enemy fire . ”

“Ultimately, the Rangers managed to recover Lieutenant Puckett and they moved to the bottom of the hill where Lieutenant Puckett called for devastating artillery fire on the top of the enemy-controlled hill,” the White House said.

Puckett joined the Army Enlisted Reserve Corps in 1943 and was discharged from the US Military Academy in 1945. He served in the Korean War as a member of the 8th Army Ranger Company and in Vietnam as a member of the 101st Airborne Division.