Home » Last surviving Medal of Honor recipient from the Korean War will lie in honor at the US Capitol

Last surviving Medal of Honor recipient from the Korean War will lie in honor at the US Capitol

by John Jefferson
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Speaker Mike Johnson and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer announced Tuesday that Colonel Ralph Puckett, Jr., the last surviving Medal of Honor recipient from the Korean War, will lie in honor in the Rotunda of the U.S. Capitol.

He died at home on Monday, April 8. He was 97. The ceremony will happen on Monday, April 29, the lawmakers said.

“The extraordinary valor of Colonel Ralph Puckett, Jr. represents the best of the 1.7 million Americans who left home to fight for freedom in the Korean War,” the two lawmakers said in a joint statement.

They added: “He demonstrated tireless sacrifice for our country and his fellow Rangers and is an exceptional model for servicemembers and civilians alike. To recognize Colonel Puckett’s remarkable heroism and service, and the contributions of all Korean War veterans, it is our privilege to permit his remains to lie in honor in the Rotunda of the Capitol.”


President Biden presented Puckett, Jr. with a Medal of Honor during a White House Ceremony on May 21, 2021.

“He leads from the front. He leads by example. He leads with heart. He is a Ranger, and that’s how Rangers lead — that’s how you lead,” the president said of the then-94-year-old retired Army colonel.

Biden holding the Medal of Honor
Biden, Puckett, Jr.

Puckett Jr., born Dec. 8, 1926, is from Tifton, Georgia. He graduated from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point and was commissioned as an Infantry Officer in 1949.

He then served as a U.S. Army Ranger and was deployed to the Korean War in 1950 and the Vietnam War in 1967.


During his 22 years of service, he received two Silver Stars, two Legions of Merit, two Bronze Stars with V device for valor, five Purple Hearts, ten Air Medals, the Army Commendation Medal, and the World War II Victory Medal, among others, according to the Army.

Col. Puckett in Vietnam

He also received the two highest awards for military valor: the Distinguished Service Cross and another Distinguished Service Cross that was upgraded to the Congressional Medal of Honor.

“He feared no man, he feared no situation and he feared no enemy. Clearly a unique, courageous Soldier in combat and even more importantly, in my opinion, Col. Puckett was an ultimate Infantry leader,” said retired General Jay Hendrix, Army reported.

Col. Puckett, President Lyndon B. Johnson

Puckett was offered a medical discharge in 1950, for wounds he received during a battle that raged more than four hours against Chinese forces that outnumbered his division 10-to-1, according to the U.S. Army.

“1st Lt. Ralph Puckett, United States Army, distinguished himself by conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty on 25-26 November 1950 while serving as Commander, Eighth Army Ranger Company, Task Force Dolvin. As the Rangers commenced the daylight attack of Hill 205, the enemy directed mortar, machinegun and small arms fire against the advancing force. To obtain supporting fire, 1st Lt. Puckett mounted the closest tank exposing himself to the deadly enemy fire. Leaping from the tank, he yelled, ‘Let’s go!’ and began to lead his Rangers in the attack.,” the U.S. Army said.

A casket in the Rotunda
A photo of the Capitol

In another description of the events, the Army wrote:

“While attached to Task Force Dolvin and leading the advance of the 25th Infantry Division on Nov. 25, 1950, Puckett and his Rangers attacked and secured Hill 205 in the vicinity of Unsan, Korea. Though outnumbered ten to one, Puckett and his Rangers defeated five successive Chinese counterattacks over four hours that night and into the early morning hours of Nov. 26. Finally, on the sixth assault, with supporting artillery fires unavailable, the Ranger company was overrun in hand-to-hand combat. Having suffered multiple serious wounds, Puckett was unable to move. Despite orders to abandon him, fellow Rangers fought their way to his side and evacuated him to safety. For his actions, Puckett was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross.​”

Refusing to quit his service, Puckett took an assignment at the U.S. Army Ranger School and West Point. He then completed his own Special Forces training in 1960 and served in Germany.

He ultimately retired in 1971, going on to serve his community with his wife of 68 years. Puckett is survived by his wife, two of his children and six grandchildren.

Pucket will also lie in honor following a Celebration of Life at the National Infantry Museum on Saturday, April 20th at 11:00am.

According to the Architect of the Capitol, government officials and military officers typically lie in state in the U.S. Capitol while private citizens lie in honor.

“No law, written rule, or regulation specifies who may lie in state; use of the U.S. Capitol Rotunda is controlled by concurrent action of the House and Senate. Any person who has rendered distinguished service to the nation may lie in state if the family so wishes and Congress approves,” according to its website.

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